The soft charcoal hue of the asphalt along the Schuylkill River Trail gleams a little brighter between the Falls Bridge and Ridge Avenue now that improvements to the trail have been completed. The new path is significantly wider and repaved.
It has increased in width from 4 to 5 feet, to 6 to 10 feet, according to Rob Armstrong, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation preservation and capital projects manager. “It is a major improvement because in some portions, bikes couldn’t pass each other,” he said.
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation began working on the quarter of a mile stretch in mid-March 2011 and finished in December.
The parking lot just west of the Falls Bridge has been completely redone. The trail now curves behind the lot instead of running through it — a longtime hazard for cyclists and runners. The parking lot is now equipped with a handicapped space.
The pavement in the lot is porous asphalt, which will allow water to infiltrate the ground, as opposed to running off. The rest of the new trail is standard asphalt, according to Armstrong.
Kaitlyn Broadhurst, 23, has been running and biking on the trail for almost two years. “It was more difficult because the path was thinner,” she said of the previous trail. “It was right next to the road.”
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation demolished the old sidewalk in order to widen the path.
For cyclists in particular, the corner of Kelly Drive and Ridge Avenue was a “big issue,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “We called it the ‘hoagie turn’ because the turn was as narrow as a hoagie.”
The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s project happened to coincide with PennDOT’s Gustine Lake Interchange bridge project in which they rebuilt the Ridge Avenue ramps to Southbound City Avenue and Lincoln Drive. As part of that project, the narrow turn at Kelly Drive and Ridge Avenue was widened, putting an end to cyclists’ fears of skidding off the path.
“The bridges were in bad shape,” said Gina Snyder, executive director of East Falls Development Corporation. PennDOT tore down five and rebuilt four of the bridges.The previous trail allowed “no room for error,” Snyder said of the old path that bordered closely with fast oncoming traffic. “Now it’s a true trail width, which is wonderful.”Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s next project is to find a solution to the “Wissahickon gap.” The distance between the Wissahickon Creek and Main Street was nicknamed so by trail users because it is “the most difficult and harrowing for a bicycle user,” Snyder said. The trail meets turning traffic and buses departing and arriving to the SEPTA Wissahickon Transfer Center. The Wissahickon Gap project is still in planning stages, according to Armstrong.
The $900,000 project was funded by federal, state and municipal government agencies, as well as private foundations.
An earlier version of this story indicated that PPR had specific plans in mind for the Wissahickon Gap project, but the project is in a preliminary phase and PPR has no formal plans as of yet.