We were so close.
Remember that rosy blog post proudly declaring "Mission Accomplished" for the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian ramp on the Ben Franklin Bridge walkway?
Not so fast.
The Delaware River Port Authority Board of Directors, who were caught between a suspicious Wall Street and a populist revolt, ordered DRPA staff to trim the 2011 Capital Budget of any project "that does not relate to public safety." As a result, DRPA trimmed back about 9% of the $164 Million budget. Within that amount was $50,000 allotted for the design of the Bridge Bicycle and Pedestrian path. At just 0.03% of the Capital Budget, $50K amounts to about 6 hours worth of Ben Franklin Bridge toll revenue.
The project is included in the 5 year Capital Program with all of the design happening in 2012 and construction beginning in 2013. A call to the Engineering Office indicated that the project will now start in early 2012 instead of late fall of 2011. The two or three month delay might have little effect on the proposed timeline to open up the ramp in the late Spring of 2013.
But will it remain in the Capital program? 2012's post toll hike budget may come under the same scrutiny. One of the top complaints of DRPA critics is that the Authority is spending money on projects that are not part of the core mission "moving people and goods across the Delaware River". Most of the criticism is aimed at economic development funds but recent Board discussions indicate a desire by some to narrow the Authority's mission. Proposal's have included shedding operations for PATCO and the Riverlink Ferry. When all is said and done the new mission may change to "moving cars and trucks over the four DRPA bridges". How progressive!
If you really love the bridge walkway then why not take some time to write a brief friendly note to DRPA Customer Service or ask to speak at a DRPA Board Meeting and declare your support for a bicycle and ramp. You need to call DRPA ahead of time (877-567-DRPA) to request time to speak at board meetings; transparency at One Port Center is an evolving practice.