PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Only a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Philadelphia reopened Wednesday due to bridge repairs that are expected to take at least two years.
All of MLK Drive north of Sweetbriar Drive reopened to traffic Wednesday at 5 p.m.
The portion of MLK Drive south of Sweetbriar, which is near Girard Avenue, will remain closed to traffic at least until early 2024, according to city officials.
City engineers said the concrete has deteriorated on the MLK Drive Bridge to a point to where they have to rebuild it.
MLK Bridge runs below the Spring Garden Street Bridge, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Both bridges opened in 1966.
"An inspection to the underside of the MLK Bridge found one of the connections of the steel framing to be about 75% deteriorated. As a result, we will have to keep the bridge closed to traffic until the rehab construction," said Mike Carroll, Deputy Managing Director for Transportation.
The city is now moving forward with plans to better connect the trails on both sides of the bridge.
"The new deck will include a 10 foot wide shared use path with railings and barriers in order to protect the public and have a better connection between the trails," said Darin Gatti, Chief Engineer of the Board of Surveyors for Philadelphia Streets Department.
City engineers also said that for now, since reconstruction hasn't started, the bridge is safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, but no cars will be allowed.
The city closed a four-mile stretch of the road in March 2020 to provide more recreational space during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moving forward, all of MLK Drive will be closed to vehicles on the weekends and city holidays to allow for recreational activity.
The weekend closure will be in effect from Falls Bridge to Eakins Oval starting on Saturday, August 7 at 6 a.m. until the end of October.
In the meantime, MLK Drive has been totally repaved and repainted.