Looking Back at the Unbuilt Red Bank Bridge Proposal in South Philadelphia

Philadelphia-Red Bank Bridge. Image via Courier PostPhiladelphia-Red Bank Bridge. Image via Courier Post

In the 1920s, Philadelphia was on the rise, with industry and was with business activity bustling across the city. The port was generally busy, the skyline was growing, and as automobiles surged in numbers, the city was in need of bridges spanning the Delaware River and connecting to New Jersey on the other side. The proposed Philadelphia-Red Bank Bridge was brought to public attention by Mayor J. Hampton Moore, who suggested that the city is in dire need of a new bridge at its south end. The bridge would have been situated very close to the present location of the Walt Whitman Bridge, though slightly further west and running from the north to the south rather than from the west to the east.

Philadelphia-Red Bank Bridge placement. Image via Google Maps, edit by Thomas Koloski

Philadelphia-Red Bank Bridge placement. Image via Google Maps, edit by Thomas Koloski

Mayor Moore had brought up the idea to the president of the Eureka Triangle Club, Governor Watkins. The discussion was then taken to the Woodbury Court House, where the monthly booster meeting for the club was taking place. The idea was spurred by the fact that the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (originally known as the Delaware River Bridge) was just over four months away from completion. The Mayor added that the two bridges together would greatly improve the flow of traffic in Philadelphia and South Jersey.

Philadelphia-Red Bank Bridge rendering. Image via Google Earth, edit by Thomas Koloski

Philadelphia-Red Bank Bridge rendering. Image via Google Earth, edit by Thomas Koloski

If built, the bridge would have had an obvious placement when looking at the map. The southern tip of Broad Street curves slightly to the east when it approaches the Delaware River in the Navy Yard. On the New Jersey side, Red Bank Ave in West Deptford lines up perfectly with the southern tip of Broad Street, making the connection of a span seem ideal at that location. However, if built, Philadelphia Sports Complex and the neighborhood of West Deptford would see different rates of traffic compared to today. In the end, it was likely for the best that the Walt Whitman Bridge was built as it was planned out to come in fruition.

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5 Comments on "Looking Back at the Unbuilt Red Bank Bridge Proposal in South Philadelphia"

  1. Why not have both?

    This was clearly a missed opportunity as an addition to the Walt Whitman Bridge.

    Very nice article. 🙂

  2. This would’ve been way better than the current Walt Whitman Bridge. They could’ve extended the broad street line directly to Jersey like the Patco crosses over the Ben Franklin. This would’ve improved transit connections from Gloucester County to Philadelphia and would eliminate most traffic on 42/76 in New Jersey. The proposed Camden to Glassboro line would never need to exist if the broad street line was operated like the Patco in Jersey.

  3. John L Hemphill | July 19, 2021 at 9:37 am | Reply

    For many years I I spoken to friends about this bridge idea and still see its benefits; if this bridge were built; and a tunnel dug at under the Delaware south of the Airport in the decades to come could be very good.

  4. What was left unsaid was the reason why the Red Bank bridge was never built as if the Philadelphia Navy Yard had no say on the proposed bridge construction.

    Remember there were sentries checking for IDs and car trunks at the front gate. Had we built the Red Bank bridge, we would have cars lining up to exit bridge to go through the front gate which would have caused bottlenecks for cars to cross Red Bank. Plus the highway leading to bridge would have bisected the Navy Yard. Do you think Navy would have given permission for the bridge to be built on their property? And WWII was less than twenty years away.

  5. Walt Whitman built in 1957 and tied with I-76 to become Schuylkill expressway. The NJ expressway led to another expressway running close to New Jersey Turnpike. President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill in 1955 authorizing construction of 50,000 miles of highways around the country for the quick movement of soldiers and supplies over expressways in a wartime situation. That’s how we got I-95, I-80 and assorted bridges built. Was Walt Whian bridge paid by the government? Pennsylvania was ahead of the time in building it’s turnpike in 1940.

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