Bikers riding in and out of Philadelphia along the Schuylkill River Trail will soon be able to avoid a detour at the Manayunk Bridge.

The Mayor's Office of Transportation this week was awarded a $1.3 million federal grant through PennDOT's Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative (PCTI) to construct a trail along the short span that sits just shy of the intersection of Main Street and Green Lane.

The project will provide bike riders, joggers and others with a long-coveted connection between Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

The trail link, while measuring less than half a mile, is an important piece in a long-range campaign to complete a contiguous 120 –plus mile trail from John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware County near the Airport out to Pottsville.

Recreational users and those commuting to work will finally be able to enjoy the soaring views of the river and region from the bridge's bed.

The iconic railroad bridge, built in the early 20th century, hasn't been used since the 1980s, when SEPTA train travel there came to a halt. It was later renovated in the late 1990s.

"The kinds of things [the city] needs to focus on now is the construction of the trail bed and then security in terms of people being up on the bridge and not being able to go over the side," said Kay Sykora, director of the Schuylkill River Project, which works to better connect East Falls, Manayunk and Lower Merion residents to the river.

In the bridge's immediate area, Sarah Clark Stuart, with the Greater Philadelphia Bike Coalition, said the project will help spur economic and community development.

"You have this big bedroom community in Lower Merion and this terrific commercial corridor in Manayunk with restaurants and bars," said Clark. "There's a strong desire from both sides to have easier access to one another."

The project must be completed over the next 18 months.

Sykora said construction will likely begin in six months after representatives from her group, the city, SEPTA and Lower Merion Township meet with PennDOT officials to go over the grant's guidelines.

Requests for trail designs will be sent out following that meeting.

PennDOT received 238 applications from across the state. Only 41 were awarded a piece of the nearly $24.7 million pilot program.

Philadelphia also received a $1.1 million grant for the Race Street Pier Connection Project.


For NewsWorks