A new $6.3 million bridge will soon be giving the area between the Schuylkill Banks and the Schuylkill River Park a facelift.
The Schuylkill River Connector Bridge — which will be dedicated this Saturday, Oct. 20 — spans 95 feet and includes a 12-foot wide pathway as well as three scenic overlooks with views of the Schuylkill River, University City and Center City.
The bridge was the result of a 2007 Federal Court settlement reached between the City and CSX Transportation, an East Coast rail company that operates the tracks on the Schuylkill’s eastern shore. CSX, citing safety concerns, filed a lawsuit against the City in 2005 calling for a pedestrian overpass spanning their tracks.
Before the bridge was constructed, pedestrians had to cross through the tracks to go from the Schuylkill River Bank to the park.
“This project was the result of a lot of groups getting together,” said Joseph Syrnick, President of Schuylkill River Development Corporation, one of the project’s partners. Others involved include the City of Philadelphia, the Federal Highway Administration, as well as local citizens from Friends of Schuylkill River Park. Representatives from the University of Pennsylvania were also included in the Design Concept Team.
Much of the funding for the bridge came from the federal stimulus, which provided $4.4 million through the Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. An additional $1.2 million came from a Transportation Enhancement grant. Other groups involved with funding were the Pew Charitable Trusts, which provided $195,000, and the City of Philadelphia, which chipped in $547,000.
The bridge is just one part of many improvements set for the Schuylkill Banks. Future projects include a 2,000-foot long boardwalk along the eastern shore of the Schuylkill River, from Locust Street to South Street, which is set to be completed in 2014.