PEC Partners with Municipalities to Bridge Trail Gaps on East Coast Greenway

PEC’s work in building the Circuit trail network just received a huge boost!

Thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), three trail projects for segments of the East Coast Greenway have been funded in Chester, Morrisville, and Philadelphia totaling $520,000. Two of these are among the top 10 trail gaps in the entire state as identified by DCNR.

Patrick Starr photo new 2
Patrick Starr

Those trail gap projects are Spring Garden Street Greenway in Philadelphia (2.2 miles) and the Bridge Street Gap (100 feet) on the Delaware Canal Trail in Morrisville. Both of these projects are also being matched, dollar for dollar, by the Regional Trails Fund at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and provided by the William Penn Foundation, bringing the total to $800,000 for the complex design of Spring Garden Street and $120,000 for Bridge Street.

The Bridge Street Gap is an interruption in the nearly continuous Delaware & Lehigh Trail system (D&L) that isn’t even 100 feet wide, but brings users from both directions to a bridge abutment and cyclone fence. The Bridge Street Gap impedes all users coming from Upper Bucks on the D&L trail as well as all users coming from Trenton following the East Coast Greenway via the Delaware & Raritan towpath. There is no easy way around this problem, and to make matters worse, Bridge Street is just the first of three consecutive dead stops that PEC and its partners are connecting!

D&L trail photo
The Bridge Street Gap construction will allow users to travel continuously through the Delaware & Lehigh Trail system.

To achieve compliance with the American Disabilities Act and to meet PennDoT safety standards, the ramps and controlled crossing become fairly pricey. This grant will support final design and position this project for construction using funding already budgeted in the region’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) for 2018.

Spring Garden Street is the missing link to connect the iconic Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) with more than 10,000 weekly users with the emerging Delaware River Trail (DRT) that will provide access from South Philadelphia all the way to Bucks County.  Spring Garden Street is a heavily trafficked urban arterial with more than 20 signalized intersections. PEC’s research revealed that it is one of Philadelphia’s most dangerous streets for cyclists in spite of existing bike lanes.

Beginning in 2011, PEC led a community-envisioning process to explore options for a two-way dedicated bicycle facility in an expanded and beautifully landscaped median. The concept will provide an attractive and safe route for the type of family-oriented recreational users who predominate on the SRT, and will soon on the DRT. These users are not urban cycling warriors, they are kids with training wheels who need safe passage between the two trunk line trails of the ambitious Circuit Trails system.

The City of Chester grant award is an exciting and relatively new PEC initiative. This historic community committed leadership, yet has struggled to revitalize. Chester has heavily-used recreation facilities, an expanse of majestic Delaware riverfront, and is positioned at the intersection of the proposed Chester Creek Trail and the East Coast Greenway. PEC will assist Chester in exploring the exciting opportunities to literally connect these assets using trail facilities.

Chester Creek Trail Community Meeting
Participants gather at the Chester Creek Trail Community Feedback Meeting.

What is most interesting about the Chester Recreation Master Plan is that all trail planning is really local. First and foremost, the trails PEC works on are intended to serve local residents, and we know that investing in trails is one of the smartest recreational facilities investments any town leader can make. That said, PEC brings an awareness and connection to the big picture with the Circuit Trails as well as the Tidal Delaware Water Trail. These assets can breathe a little something special into Chester and fulfill PEC’s strategic goal of connecting Pennsylvanians to the natural resources to which they have a Constitutional right.

These projects say a lot about how PEC builds trails by assisting local governments to get the job done. Leveraging private philanthropy, PEC is able to serve as a free consultant to hard pressed communities to bring in resources and focus local citizen advocates while keeping the big picture in focus.

The fact that DCNR reviewers saw the merit in PEC’s proposals on behalf of three Pennsylvania communities was certainly a huge pleasure. PEC will be deeply involved in each of these projects moving forward as we continue to connect trail gaps not only in Southeast Pennsylvania, but across the entire Commonwealth!