Friday, March 08, 2013

Three Proposals for the Ben Franklin Bridge Ramp

On Wednesday the Delaware River Port Authority's Engineering Department presented its preliminary design options to the DRPA Operations and Management Committee.

According to, plans were presented for three design options ranging from a straightaway ramp, a single switchback, or three switchbacks. The estimated costs ranged from $3 million for the single switchback to $3.7 million for the straight ramp.

Image taken from The Inquirer. Credit: Robert West.

The design drawings will probably be presented to the DRPA Board at the March meeting; the options will be presented to the public at some point before the final design is determined.

We favor the straight ramp option although understand why some officials at DRPA have concerns of speeding cyclists. We think there are ways to slow the descent of wheeled vehicles, such as adding a kink at the ramp's midpoint (like the Connector Bridge in Schuylkill River Park). A switchback requiring users to make a 180-degree turn is less desirable but adding a staircase with bike wheel channels on both sides could make this option palatable. We would not support the multi-switchback option unless it was absolutely the only feasible choice.

An interesting point made in the Inquirer article is the possibility of widening the walkway on the Camden side, which narrows to 5 feet as it approaches the stairway. The widening would add a million dollars to the project.

Thanks to years of public support and effort, the walkway ramp is one step closer to reality. We will keep you posted as DRPA begins its public outreach.

Clarification: The proposed bridge ramp would be for the walkway on the south side of the bridge.


thatbmxguy said...

Will the ramp be on the north (westbound side) or south side(east bound), because I'm not sure where these said parking spaces are.. .. On the south side, it seems no one parks on the street, by the stairs anyway.

The first option sounds good enough. It would be like how the George Washington Bridge ramp, and seems fine

John Boyle said...

South side, during the week Rutgers Camden students and staff park there because it is a more attractive option than walking or taking the shuttle from the waterfront.

Andrew J. Besold said...
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Paul said...

I like the idea of widening the existing cattle chute combined with the one switchback option.

Jim Kriebel said...

Clearly the third option is the best (no switchbacks). This is a chance for the DRPA to do something correctly - and it will have an impact for decades to come The third option looks better and I believe will work best for the majority of the walkway users (who typically are traveling to/from the east)

The article is vague about the widening of the cattlechute - both the north walkway and the south walkway narrow as they approach Camden, although clearly the north walkway narrows much more. Ideally both walkways would be widened. In addition there are light fixtures and at least one standpipe that block part of the narrowed walkway. These should also be moved.

The concern about speeding cyclists is odd considering there is nothing to slow cyclists down on the Philadelphia side of the bridge.

And the loss of parking spaces is so ridiculous I'm surprised it is even mentioned. The DRPA stopped allowing cars to park next to the bridge on the Philadelphia side of the river (on New Street aka North Marginal Road). My guess is that someone at Rutgers mentioned the possibility, neglecting the fact that Rutgers has added numerous parking spaces over the years to their campus. In addition Pearl Street is very wide next to the bridge and could be re-stripped next to the bridge to keep the on-street parking

Andrew J. Besold said...

Why should bicyclists and pedestrians be asked to compromise on Level of Service? Traffic engineers never compromise when building roads for motor traffic. They always build roads to accommodate ever increasing levels of traffic that recent trends suggest are likely never to come.

The whole ramp needs to be widened to 10 feet. It gets pretty hairy passing a cyclist in the narrow 5 foot section, particularly when hauling cargo. With bicycling rates likely to increase, conflicts with other oncoming users are likely to become much more common. Any and all new construction on the ramp must meet the new AASHTO standards.

Finally, I'm cool with one switchback but none would be much more desirable.

Peter said...

The issue of speed for the no-switchback approach is very odd. Right now, the steepest part of the descent is from the center of the bridge so your maximum speed is going to be up there. The ramp will have a lessor slope if it follows the bridge surface. And right now, you can be going full tilt and suddenly come upon the steps, a much more dangerous situation than coasting down to the end of the bridge.

Unknown said...

In my view, option #2 seems like a small compromise over option #3. The extra money saved could be used for widening the narrow section of the walkway to 10". Option #1 should be considered only as a last resort.

Anonymous said...

There might be some interest in this article about a new cyclepath overpass in the Netherlands. It was constructed for $2.6 million USD and has one switchback. It's intended for bicycles only, as there is an extremely low pedestrian volume in that area.