By Emilia Crotty, Senior Program Manager for Trails & Outdoor Recreation
Photo credits: Daniel Paschall, East Coast Greenway Alliance
On Saturday, April 9, Chester’s 9th Street Youth & Community Center’s Environmental Youth Corps took to the streets and sidewalks of Highland Avenue to spread the word among residents: changes are coming to allow residents safer, more comfortable access to the Delaware River and riverfront path on foot or by bike. Youth Corps members shared proposed changes with residents, asked for their input, and gathered feedback on the project, which was generally positive, although residents voiced concerns on issues like speeding and street trees, which designers intend to incorporate into project plans.
Highland Avenue is a short but critical piece of Chester’s multi-use trail network, as well as the regional Circuit Trails Network and the even larger East Coast Greenway. The half-mile industrial and residential street connects the established Riverfront trail, which runs along the Delaware River, with the rest of Chester, creating improved access to the riverfront for residents and visitors. Currently the multi-use Riverfront trail, which passes under the Commodore Barry Bridge and past the Philadelphia Union’s Subaru Park stadium, ends at Highland Avenue, leaving trail users to navigate the wide, unmarked roadway, the majority of which lacks sufficient walking and biking facilities.
The proposed project will bring much-needed improvements to Highland Avenue, including:
- New sidewalks from Industrial Route 291 along residential blocks of Highland Ave.
- A new physically separated shared-use path for more comfortable walking and biking
- New roadway markings and signs
- Green stormwater infrastructure
- New street trees
- Traffic calming measures
The Highland Avenue trail connector project is a part of a larger effort by the City of Chester to better connect its trail network and parks system, outlined in the 2018 Resilience Through Recreation: Parks, Trails, and Open Space Plan Update, produced in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The Highland Ave. project, which is currently in the design and community outreach phase, is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Zone Management Program and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Community Conservation Partnership Program. Outreach efforts are funded by in-kind support made possible by the William Penn Foundation and are conducted by Chester’s 9th Street Youth & Community Center. Construction of the project, which is slated to take place in 2023, will be funded by the federal Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program.
Along with improvements to Highland Avenue, the project team, which consists of the City of Chester, the Riverfront Alliance, Chester Economic Development Authority, 9th St. Youth & Community Center, PEC, and the East Coast Greenway Alliance, will soon begin the design and engineering phase of Norris Street, which connects the opposite end of the Riverfront Trail to Industrial Route 291. Together these two projects will offer residents and visitors two comfortable connections between the river and the rest of the City of Chester. With changes also in the pipeline for Rt. 291, residents and visitors have even more to look forward to: safe, comfortable walking, running, and rolling into areas farther afield, like Marcus Hook and Wilmington, Delaware to the south, and the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge and Philadelphia to the north.
Chester’s trail network is just getting started, and PEC is thrilled to be working with such a dynamic team to bring it to life. Special thank you to the 9th St. Youth & Community Center Environmental Youth Corps for filling such an important role in the project.