Saturday, April 06, 2013

Manayunk Bridge is on Fast Track to a 2014 Rail-To-Trail Transformation

A future jewel of our region's trail system
After two years of behind-the-scenes work on the part of many individuals and agencies, we are heartened to report that the Manayunk Bridge trail project will be advertised this summer, which means it should go to construction either late 2013 or early 2014. In the transportation world, start to finish in four years for a project of this scale and complexity is rare and a testament to the diligence of the cooperating partners.

A bit of recent history. The bridge was identified as a key gap in our Complete The Schuylkill River Trail campaign. Unfortunately, the project didn't receive funding from the TIGER grant that Philadelphia and Camden received in 2010. However, planning grants from both the state and the William Penn Foundation, and a Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative (PCTI) award, kicked off a planning/design-on-steroids process. After several public outreach meetings held in 2011, the bulk of 2012 was devoted to coming up with a design for the half mile trail across the Manayunk Bridge that protects the trail users, the bridge itself, and the two active rail lines and highway that it crosses above.

Jumping to today, a working group of agencies and non-profits, coordinated by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, has been working with a team of consultants headed by Whitman, Requardt & Associates to complete the design, shepherd the project through local, state and federal reviews, and find funding to cover the full cost of construction.

This signature project will accomplish many things. It will re-open to the public an iconic piece of infrastructure that has been highly visible since 1918, but highly inaccessible since 1986. It will create a bicycle-pedestrian connection between Lower Merion Township and Manayunk, providing Manayunk's restaurants with a new source of customers (who don't need a parking space) and Lower Merion with access to a vibrant commercial corridor. St. Joe's students will be able to bike to school from their Manayunk rentals and Lower Merion residents will be able to access transit stops in Philadelphia. Lastly, it will provide an important link between Lower Merion's Cynwyd Trail and the future Penncoyd Trail that O'Neill Properties is slated to build in the next few years, and the Schuylkill River Trail.

The City of Philadelphia, Lower Merion Township, SEPTA, Montgomery County, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and the William Penn Foundation have all contributed towards the planning, design and construction of the project. And the interest of Mayor Nutter, Montgomery County Commissioners, Lower Merion Commissioners, State Representative Pam DeLissio, and City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. have all made the project a priority. It represents a terrific example of multi-jurisdicational, public-private partnership. We can't wait for this ribbon cutting, now less than two years away!