Falls Bridge Fix

Major Repairs Are on the Way for a Neighborhood Landmark

After almost 130 years, the East Falls Bridge is about to get a much-needed rehabilitation.

The Streets Department plans to begin work in the winter of 2023. The bridge rehab project will:

  • Apply a fresh protective coating of paint
  • Design and implement an updated bridge deck support system
  • Install new concrete roadway and sidewalks
  • Ensure all repairs preserve historic aesthetics
  • Upgrade structural elements to extend the life of the bridge

The bridge will be closed to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians while the Streets Department makes repairs.

Explore the following project materials to learn more about the Falls Bridge rehab project. (Click here for PDFs)

Fact sheet
A one-page document that includes a project overview, bridge background, planned improvements, and an anticipated schedule.

Vehicular detour
A map of detours for eastbound and westbound traffic while the Falls Bridge is closed for repairs.

Engineering plans
Engineering drawings for the Falls Bridge rehabilitation plan and elevation.

For more information on the project, email falls.bridge.rehab@phila.gov.

Falls Bridge Fast Facts
Construction date: 1895
Main Span Length: 180 Feet
Structure Length: 566 Feet
Roadway Width: 26 Feet

  • It was constructed as a double-deck bridge, which was designed to carry vehicular traffic on the lower deck and streetcars on the upper deck. (The streetcar line was never built.)
  • The double-deck design resulted in this bridge having very massive supports for its age, a factor that has likely allowed this bridge to remain a very strong and functional bridge into the 21st century.
  • The bridge was originally painted in a multi-color scheme. This was a common tradition in the 19th century, and was done to distinguish the different structural functions by a different color. The Falls Bridge’s original colors were white, buff, brown and red.
  • This is the sixth bridge at this location. A wire-cable suspension bridge (known as the “Spider Bridge”) was erected here in 1816. It was an iron-wire foot bridge, 407 feet long and 1.6 feet wide. Though a modest and temporary structure, it is thought to have been the first wire-cable suspension bridge in the world.

Facebook Feedback
Fallsers weigh in…

The original plan was only to have the whole thing open until January when they were going to do a massive reconstruction on the bridge near the museum. I read somewhere else that they expected the work to take two years. This implies that upon further inspection they realized it’s so bad that they don’t even want to let cars on it for the next few months. 😬 – Johnpaul G

I am glad they figured it out at least. I just don’t know how many people will want to go from Falls Bridge to Sweet Briar. Makes it hard to get to 676 which is the main reason people take west River. At least it means it will have less traffic. – Carla L

This MLK Bridge rehab project has been in the works for years. I remember going to a meeting with the Streets engineers about it as early as 2018. – Michael A

I know it’s been crap for years. The bike lane is a joke, I’ve gotten flats on it. I hate that narrow stupid sidewalk. That bridge sucks. Good riddance! – Johnpaul G

They stopped issuing permits for events prior to the pandemic stating that work on the bridge was imminent. Foot dragging at its best. This project has been delayed for years – Jim M

Actually the city stopped issuing permits because the bridge is unsafe for gatherings. The last Dance on the Falls Bridge, it was literally bouncing at times! Bridges are designed for weight that’s crossing over it, not milling around like a bunch of human bodies and pop-up concessions. I spoke to the engineer who shut down the Strawberry Mansion bridge, and he said events are the worst thing for an aging bridge. (Hopefully they’ll keep this in mind when doing repairs, so we won’t have to worry about this in the future) – Carolyn F.

I wonder if they were waiting for the dredging to be finished above the dam on the Schuylkill? It should’ve been done a while ago, but the company that was doing it was way over their heads and lost the contract earlier this year. I feel like this happens more often than not, where they hire a company that doesn’t have experience dredging something as big as the Schuylkill. They fall behind schedule at the least, if not completely fail. The last time this was done, they had a silt-loaded barge capsized approximately where this bridge is. – Johnpaul G

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