U.S. DOT awards $12M for Schuylkill River Trail

artist rendering schuylkill
Artist's rendering of a cable bridge that will form part of the Christian to Crescent segment of the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey announced on March 6 the awarding of a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help fund an addition to the Schuylkill River Trail that will connect Center City to Southwest Philadelphia. The grant will go toward connecting the trail, one of the most-used segments of the East Coast Greenway, at its southern end at Christian Street with the Grays Ferry Crescent and eventually with Bartram's Garden.

“In the next six years, we’ll see amazing improvements on the Schuylkill River Trail,” says Daniel Paschall, East Coast Greenway mid-Atlantic coordinator. “The Christian to Crescent segment is the last major piece of the trail to be funded. Construction could begin in 2020 and be completed within a few years."

Since the 1980s, local and state agencies and organizations — among them the Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylania Environmental Council, the state's Department of Transportation and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission — have been piecing together the 10.5-mile Philadelphia section of the Schuylkill River Trail, reaching from the city’s art museum southwest along the river, across to Bartram’s Garden, and southwest to Fort Mifflin. Early on, the Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance program of the National Park Service worked with the Schuylkill River Development Corporation to envision what are now the Crescent Trail and southwest extension of the Schuylkill River Trail to Bartram's Garden.

The South to Crescent streets segment, the eighth of 10 Philadelphia sections, opened in February. The two remaining segments are the Christian to Crescent segment, involving a cable bridge along the river’s banks, and a Schuylkill Crossing swing bridge, due to open in 2019.

schuylkill river trail sw philly segments 2

The safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians will be enormous, Paschall says. “The Schuylkill Crossing segment will give trail users their own pedestrian bridge, avoiding the Grays Ferry Avenue Bridge,” he says. “The Christian to Crescent segment means trail users can skip Grays Ferry Avenue altogether.”

Senator Casey noted those safety and access improvements in announcing the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant award. “Investing in the Schuylkill River Trail expansion isn’t just about enhancing another one of the City of Philadelphia’s many tourist attractions — this is an investment in the economy, health and growth of the city,” Casey said. “Providing a safe and sustainable way for residents to commute and enjoy the city not only makes it attractive for newcomers but also for businesses.”

"This TIGER grant is a great example of federal partnership with local and state leaders that raises the quality of life for millions of Americans," says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, East Coast Greenway Alliance executive director. "It is a model of the kind of collaboration that can complete the East Coast Greenway in the years ahead."

The total cost of the Christian to Crescent project is $36 million. The TIGER grant covers a third of the project, with the remaining two-thirds to come from the state, the city, the William Penn Foundation, and other sources. It’s the third TIGER grant to be awarded to develop the trail.

Paschall notes that completing the Schuylkill River Trail also strengthens and inspires connections along the East Coast Greenway to the south — to Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC — and to the north, from Philadelphia to Trenton, New York City, and north to Maine. "It's a great achievement that will inspire local and regional connections," he says.

Read more of our March 2018 On the Greenway newsletter

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