People who enjoy the Schuylkill River Trail will soon have access to a closer link between University City and Center City.
Bikers, joggers and people walking south along the trail currently hit a dead end at Locust Street because the narrow space between the railroad tracks and the river prevents the boardwalk from continuing south on land. The break in the trail forces people to either backtrack or leave the pathway to return to city streets.
When the project is completed — officials estimate an October opening — a 2,000-foot-long boardwalk will run along the eastern shore of the river from Locust Street to the South Street Bridge. Since the boardwalk will nearly skim the water, a 460-foot ramp will be constructed to connect the pathway back up to the deck of the bridge.
By jutting out over the river, the bridge gets around the issue of a lack of land space. The unique experience of walking over water coupled with the practical route will make this segment of the trail “a destination in and of itself,” Jim Campbell, president of the South Street Bridge Coalition, said.
College sophomore and frequent runner Ava van der Meer said, “With the new addition, I will probably try to run along [the Schuylkill] more. I love when trails change things up and there’s more to explore.”
In addition to the 15-foot-wide pathway for foot and bike traffic, the boardwalk will boast four lookout areas that will stretch beyond the path by eight feet over the water. These resting areas will allow pedestrians to pause and enjoy the view of the city skyline without blocking the main path.
Along with the appeal of a picturesque river crossing, the boardwalk will make different parts of the city more accessible. West Philadelphia residents will especially benefit from this convenient transportation route since the current lack of connectivity hampers people’s ability to travel into other areas of the city.
“New links add safe, easy ways for more people to get into the city by foot or bike, instead of by car or public transportation," Sarah Stuart, deputy director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, said. The project "is important because it provides a great connection for communities underserved by green space, high quality infrastructure and access to things like business employment,” she added.
The new boardwalk contributes to a decades-old movement in Philadelphia to promote a more connected city through uninterrupted trails. Joseph Syrnick, president and CEO of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, said the project is a great achievement for the city since it “creates more momentum to continue making progress southward.”