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Philly proposes $43 million Schuylkill trail extension to include bridge with scenic overlook

Philadelphia Inquirer logo Philadelphia Inquirer 6/22/2020 By Frank Kummer, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia has applied for a federal permit to build an extension to the Schuylkill River Trail with a bridge along the eastern bank of the Schuylkill that would allow runners, walkers and cyclists to go over railroad tracks that have long blocked access to the river. It would also allow for an uninterrupted trail from Valley Forge to Bartram’s Garden via the Schuylkill River Trail.

The $43 million project, adding more than a half-mile of trail, is to be paid for through a mix of federal, state, city and private funding.

The trail would start at Christian Street and run south into Gray’s Ferry Crescent Trail Park and include a pedestrian bridge with two overlooks similar to the existing Schuylkill Boardwalk at South Street. But this new section would be much higher to clear an industrial area that includes rail operations.

When complete, the new portion of the trail would give users a westward view across the river toward the University of Pennsylvania baseball field.

“The project has been in the works for years and we’re just finishing up the design,” said Joseph Syrnick, president of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, a nonprofit managing the project for the city.

He said it’s the last gap in the trail from Montgomery County to Bartram’s Garden.

“Because of that it’s very critical,” Syrnick said.

Syrnick said this segment is the most complex part of the trail along the riverbanks. He hopes the project goes to bid in the fall, with possible completion by summer 2023.

Eventually, the Schuylkill River Trail will be extended to the Delaware River, but there are no firm plans yet for when that work will be completed.

The new plan was filed Monday with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit needed to build the bridge over land and water, along with some small dredging of the river. The Army Corps has to decide whether the project’s cumulative impacts are in the public interest, including consideration for conservation, economics, aesthetics, and environmental concerns.

“The purpose of the proposed project is to provide a safe and efficient public recreational facility along the Schuylkill River waterfront within the City of Philadelphia,” the application reads. “Closing this trail gap will connect several trail segments, making the entire trail system more functional and creating a major attraction for the entire regional trail network.”

The new segment of the trail would run 2,730 feet for walking, running or biking along the river’s eastern bank between Christian Street and South 34th Street as part of the existing Schuylkill River Trail.

The proposed trail is divided into five sections and will extend over the river for 775 feet with a cable bridge. The bridge would carry the trail for approximately 650 feet along the river running parallel to the eastern bank of the Schuylkill.

It would be about 25 feet wide, with two overlooks roughly 50 feet wide, and would need to be supported by pylons and piers placed in the river.

In addition, the trail would include a 700-foot long section that would require construction of a bridge to pass over CSX railroad tracks, starting at Stanley Street.

The Army Corps is taking public comments on the question of whether there should be a public hearing on the proposal Comments can be sent by email, within 30 days, to the District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District at PhiladelphiaDistrictRegulatory@usace.army.mil. Comments can also be submitted through regular mail to the District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, Wanamaker Building, 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107-3390.

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