Conrail donates Schuylkill swing bridge, clearing way for trail extension

The steady expansion of the Schuylkill River Trail took another step forward Wednesday morning.

Mayor Jim Kenney acknowledged the Conrail’s gift  of the Schuylkill River Swing Bridge to the city of Philadelphia in a press conference at Gray’s Ferry Crescent. The now-defunct span will be repurposed as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting two trail segments: Gray’s Ferry Crescent and Bartram’s Mile. The bridge will be renamed Conrail Crossing to commemorate the freight rail company’s donation.

If all goes according to plan, these segments will eventually connect with the popular Schuylkill River Trail.

The approximately $12 million construction cost will be funded in part by $3.2 million in federal TIGER grants awarded to the city two years ago., State funds rest will cover the rest. Conrail long ago agreed to donate the bridge, having abandoned the attendant rail line. Today’s ceremony formalized the transfer.

Now that the donation is official, the city has begun to solicit bids for building  a new bridge for the trail, according to Joe Syrnick, executive director of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC), which oversees the development of the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia.

“We actually just got our first question on the design, which means people are starting to take a look at the project,” said Syrnick. The bid period begins on December 7th.

The ultimate goal is a totally connected Schuylkill River Trail from the Delaware River through Montgomery County and beyond. “Once this is done, along with one more portion connecting Grays Ferry Crescent and South Street, you’ll be able to go from South Philly all the way into Norristown,” said Jen Crandall, public relations manager for the Parks and Recreation Department of Philadelphia. “Folks are going to be able to use this trail all over the city.”

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