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The Christina River Crossing - Emphasizing Livability in the Project Development and Environmental Review Process

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Challenge – Improving Access to and Supporting Redevelopment along the Christina River

Since the mid-1990s, Wilmington, Delaware has been working to redevelop its waterfront, transforming the area from brownfields and declining industrial uses to a multiuse district. Completed and proposed projects include a river walk, wildlife refuge, museum, minor league baseball field, convention center, retail, and residences. Supporting these efforts, public entities have invested over $200 million and private entities have invested over $600 million in the area.[1] Federal investments include Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) support for brownfields cleanup and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding for affordable housing.

Map showing proposed bridge, existing and proposed redevelopment along the waterfront, and proximity to other major roadways.

Existing and proposed redevelopment
along the Christina River waterfront
(yellow: already redeveloped, blue: proposed)

What is missing is a direct and convenient connection between the neighborhoods and developments on both sides of the Christina River. The area needs a way to connect activities on both sides of the river, improving access to jobs and other regional destinations.

Solution – Developing a Comprehensive Bridge Project and Integrating Livability into the NEPA Process

The Christina River Bridge project[2] provides that link; the two-lane bridge with pedestrian and bicycle facilities will connect to major routes such as Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, US 13, I-495, and I-95. Originally envisioned as a new interchange off I-95, the project has evolved to support redevelopment and connects the neighborhoods of Browntown and Southbridge to better job opportunities. These two neighborhoods generally have lower incomes, higher immigrant and non-white populations[3], and contaminated former industrial sites.

As part of project scoping, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Delaware/Maryland (DelMar) Division Office discussed the Partnership for Sustainable Communities,[4] and the livability principles that guide its collaboration. Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) staff, recognizing the connection, used the principles in the Purpose and Need chapter of the Environmental Assessment.[5] This project is a unique example of integrating livability into the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The needs include:

Funding – Opportunities to Leverage and Attract Additional Funds

In 2005, Federal transportation legislation provided $20 million for "Wilmington Riverfront Access and Street Grid Redesign." In the scoping process, DelDOT decided to focus the Christina River Bridge project on connecting redevelopment efforts and enhancing livability. Through the livability focus, DelDOT was awarded additional funding for efforts to complement the bridge project. In 2011, DelDOT received $521,000 from the FHWA Transportation, Community, and System Preservation Program (TCSP) for improvements along Garashes Lane to connect the Christina River Bridge to the Southbridge neighborhood. The improvements connected a low-income residential neighborhood in an old industrial area with the bridge, jobs, and the only nearby grocery store. HUD has plans for major area investments by adding housing and improving existing units.

Incorporating livability principles and coordinating with other partners has improved the Christina River Bridge project while strengthening other investments in the area. The Environmental Assessment was approved in 2012. DelDOT plans to acquire right-of-way for the Christina River Bridge project in 2013 and begin initial construction in 2014 and 2015. The success of this project has encouraged DelDOT to continue to work with other partners and seek ways to incorporate livability principles into future projects.



[3] Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice directs Federal agencies to consider the impacts of programs and activities on minority and low-income populations, and to ensure the participation of these populations in decisions that affect their communities.

[4] On June 16, 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined together to help communities nationwide improve access to affordable housing, increase transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment.


HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership | DOT Livability | FTA Livable & Sustainable Communities
Updated: 12/3/2015
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