Philadelphia is full of trails — there are over 300 miles of them in the Greater Philly region — and a new grant will help expand the city’s paved, pedestrian-friendly pathways into new neighborhoods and communities.
Officials on Tuesday announced $2.5 million in state funding to help take the Schuylkill River Trail further into Southwest Philly, getting it closer to potentially linking up with FDR Park.
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The grant, which will fund about a third of the estimated $7.5 million cost of the extension, comes from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which funds projects with “cultural, civic, historical, regional or multi-jurisdictional impact” that are also expected to bring some sort of significant economic growth, like more jobs or increased tax revenue, per the state budget office’s website.
The planned extension would be 3,400 feet, or about two-thirds of a mile, according to a press release from Schuylkill Banks, a joint project led by the City of Philadelphia and the nonprofit Schuylkill River Development Corporation to breathe life into the area along the riverfront. The extension to Passyunk Avenue is currently in the design phase, per SRDC spokesperson Heather Saeger.
A final design is expected next summer, construction is likely to begin late next year or early 2024, and the completed segment is expected to open in summer or fall 2025.
The new piece of the trail would stretch from the area along the Schuylkill River right near 61st Street to the Passyunk Avenue Bridge. Project leaders believe the trail will aid in spurring development in the area, per the press release, playing a role in the PIDC’s plan for building an “Innovation District” along the lower Schuylkill.
Plans for the segment currently anticipate an ADA-accessible trail with nighttime lighting and better stormwater management, per a Schuylkill Banks press release — and the yet-to-come final plans could include even more trail amenities, Saeger said. The project also involves building a riverfront park near the bridge, according to the organization’s website.
This project marks the second phase in the effort by the city and the SDRC to build out a pedestrian- and bike-friendly greenway from Bartram’s Garden to Passyunk Avenue.
The 61st to Passyunk portion of the trail is slated to be almost twice as long as the one built in the project’s previous phase. The product of Phase I — 1,800 feet of trail and 1.6 acres of adjacent green space from 56th Street to the area near 61st Street — opened last November.
The proposed 3,400-foot segment is also part of a larger regional effort to construct a contiguous trail that mostly follows the path of the river and one of its tributaries (Mill Creek) all the way from Frackville in Schuylkill County to Fort Mifflin near Philadelphia International Airport — along with a possible spur leading to the Navy Yard and FDR Park.
Within Philadelphia, that undertaking also involves building a swing bridge for pedestrians and cyclists between Grays Ferry Crescent and Bartram’s Mile that’s due to open mid-next year, as well as a long-planned $43-million trail segment between Christian Street and Grays Ferry Crescent projected to open in 2025. Those segments will fill gaps to create an unbroken off-road path from Fairmount Water Works to the existing Southwest Philly portion of the trail.