Advertised for Bids: The Manayunk Bridge Trail

The bridge spanning the Manayunk canal and towpath. (Credit: Emma Lee for Newsworks.org)

We’re excited to announce that as of this week, the City of Philadelphia is officially advertising for bids to construct a multi-use trail on the Manayunk Bridge!  When complete, the bridge will become the first exclusive pedestrian/bicycle bridge spanning the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

The trail will extend Lower Merion’s Cynwyd Heritage Trail onto the existing bridge, soaring over the Schuylkill River, Manayunk’s Main Street, and SEPTA regional rail tracks.  The trail will land just north of downtown Manayunk at the corner of High and Dupont Streets.  The project has been in the works since 2010, when the William Penn Foundation funded a study to examine the feasibility of converting the disused bridge into a pedestrian and bicycle trail.  Over the past two years, planners, engineers, officials, and advocates on both sides of the river have been busy holding community meetings, developing the design, and assembling the needed financing.

The view of the Manayunk Canal from the bridge.

The view of the Main Street and the Manayunk Canal from the bridge.

According to a timeline from Interface Studio, who helped plan the project, the iconic concrete arch bridge was built in 1918 to replace an even older rail bridge at the same spot.  SEPTA acquired the bridge in 1976, and for awhile, trains on the Cynwyd Line crossed the river here.  However, the bridge had to be shut down in 1986 due to disrepair and has not been used since.  The tracks have been removed, but the structure is still standing and was shored up in 1999.  With construction anticipated to start next spring, the public will soon be able to enjoy a dedicated path with a magnificent view connecting both banks of the Schuylkill River.  In the future, plans call for further extending the trail past its soon-to-be endpoint in Manayunk further north to the Ivy Ridge rail station.

The City of Philadelphia will manage the construction project, but the project is being funded with a combination of City funds, a PennDOT Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative (PCTI) grant, Lower Merion Township, and Montgomery County.  Construction could begin as soon as late spring of 2014 and is expected to take a little more than one year.

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