$300,000 grant toward Schuylkill swing bridge reuse

The Schuylkill River Trail is a little bit closer to crossing the river at Grays Ferry thanks to a state grant announced Thursday. The Depatment of Conservation and Natural Resources awarded the Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC), with the City of Philadelphia, $300,000 to put toward repurposing an old railroad swing bridge as a new connector between the Grays Ferry Crescent and forthcoming Bartram’s Mile trail segments. The bridge’s reuse will help close a critical gap in the Schuylkill River Trail’s southward extension and allow the trail to cross the river.

The funding was awarded as part of $38 million in Community Conservation Partnership Program grants for 201 recreation and conservation projects statewide, with nearly $3.1 million given to nine projects in Philadelphia. 

SRDC’s $300,000 grant will allow engineers from Ammann & Whitney and project architect Ted Agoos to resolve outstanding engineering challenges, complete final construction drawings, and the remainder will go toward the estimated $10 million construction cost.

“This was the first one that we’ve officially received. We’ve got a lot of grants pending now… This allows us to keep going,” SRDC president Joe Syrnick said. He also said SRDC sees the state’s new transportation bill as a source of possible trail funding for this important project.

Syrnick is hopeful that the swing bridge will be completed by early 2016, roughly the same time that Bartram’s Mile would open.

The swing bridge will need to be lifted to a height of 35 feet above the river – the same height as the South Street Bridge but lower than the immediately adjacent Grays Ferry Avenue Bridge – and ramps constructed on either end. The reason for the height is to permit tugboat and barge traffic under the bridge, specifically so the Veolia plant can receive oil deliveries by barge. Veolia has converted its plant to natural gas, but oil is its backup fuel.

In order to build the new bridge, the project still needs a permit from the Coast Guard and approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Philadelphia Water Department.

Meanwhile other Schuylkill River Trail segments are also in progress. Design work to extend the Schuylkill River Trail segment from South to Christian streets is underway and SRDC is seeking construction funding for that project. SRDC also received a $35,000 Community Conservation Partnership Program grant this round to explore an .8-mile trail extension from the southern reaches of Bartram’s Mile at 58th Street to Passyunk Avenue.

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