After more than three years of planning, more than a year of construction and ongoing community involvement, the 58th Street Greenway opened Saturday. The 1.5-mile, $3.5 million trail provides a critical link between the Cobbs Creek Trail, Bartram’s Garden and the trails beyond. As community and project leaders stressed though, the trail is more than a connection. It is a vote of confidence in the South West Philadelphia, Kingsessing neighborhood.
The greenway is a Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) project and is one more piece of both The Circuit and the East Coast Greenway trail network puzzles. The Circuit aims to build and connect 750 bicycle trail miles throughout the Philadelphia region, and the East Coast Greenway is an endeavor to build a continuous, 3,000-mile bicycle trail from Maine to Key West, Fla. PEC set out to build this trail segment in order to connect more of those regional networks and to encourage Kingsessing residents to get outside and stay active.
“We’re deeply connected to getting all of you outdoors, and we hope this trail well help you do that,” said PEC Executive Vice President Patrick Starr at the 58th Street Greenway ribbon cutting.
In addition to repaving and marking the new trail, the Philadelphia Streets Department installed 32 pedestrian countdown timers, 40 pedestrian-scale light posts and 12 curb bumpouts, which will shorten the crossing time at several intersections. The Parks and Recreation Department is in the process of planting 75 new trees, which along with the new stormwater basin at the intersection of Lindbergh Boulevard and Elmwood Ave, will help collect rain water and runoff.
Funding for the $3.5 million project came from multiple sources, including the federal TIGER program, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Claneil Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.
Community Impact and Involvement
State and city officials praised project leaders for involving the community to the extent that they did. In addition to working with several community organizations, PEC partnered with the Francis Myers Recreation Center to hold exercise-related programming last summer. The idea was to engage the community and encourage exercise and recreation throughout the neighborhood.
“There’s a lot of times people do projects in [our] neighborhoods [and] think they’re doing a really nice thing, but they don’t necessarily listen,” said State Senator Anthony Williams. This was not one of those instances he told those gathered to celebrate the greenway ribbon cutting.
Williams said the 58th Street Greenway is more than a bicycle and pedestrian trail. It is a statement that the community intends to grow, that the community is moving ahead.
“This doesn’t fly in the face of violence,” Williams said. “This a contribution to removing violence from the community.”
The project is about equity, too, said Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler.
When it comes to building and investing in Philadelphia’s bike trails, she said, “It can’t just happen in Center City.”
Connecting Cobbs Creek, Bartram’s Mile and beyond
At its northwest end, the trail connects directly to the Cobbs Creek Trail, which runs through Cobbs Creek Park from 63rd and Market streets to 70th Street and Cobbs Creek Parkway. From there it heads east along 59th Street where sharrows painted over large green squares indicate the route and notify drivers and cyclists alike that the road is a shared space.
The trail turns onto Springfield Ave for a block and then turns again onto 58th Street. From there the trail continues to Elmwood Ave. Most of this segment of the greenway is a shared-use path that runs adjacent to 58th Street. Driveways do intersect the path at several places, and the intersection of 58th Street and Woodland Ave is a little hairy as several trolley tracks turn and intersect there.
Just below Woodland Ave and the Save-A-Lot grocery store, the shared-use path leads cyclists into a two-way, on-road bike lane that takes cyclists over a railroad bridge. After the bridge, the bike lane feeds back into an off-road trail. This segment turns at Elmwood Ave, where a bike lane leads cyclists to Lindbergh Ave. Here there is another shared-use, off road trail piece that leads directly to Bartram’s Garden.
While there are stretches of bike lanes from Bartram’s Garden to the Grays Ferry Bridge and then throughout the city, big changes are coming for the trail network around Bartram’s Garden. The partners behind Bartram’s Mile are still designing the route, which will connect directly with the 58th Street Greenway and provide 1.1 miles and 8 acres of bike and recreation trail along the Schuylkill River. Bartram’s Mile will likely cross the Schuylkill at a more bicycle-friendly, purpose-built bridge and will connect with the Schuylkill River Trail.