Construction of Penn Street Trail starts next month

Rendering of a seating area to be added to the southern portion of the trail
Rendering of a seating area to be added to the southern portion of the trail

Construction will begin next month on the Penn Street portion of the Central Delaware River trail, which will stretch from the end of Spring Garden Street, along Columbus Boulevard to Penn Street, through the SugarHouse Casino Parking lot and to the finished portion of the trail behind SugarHouse.

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Board recently authorized staff to enter a $1.55 million contract with AP Construction Incorporated, a firm with offices on Delaware Avenue, and also in Blackwood, NJ. AP Construction has done much work on roadways, utilities and landscaping in the corporate center portion of the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Read about that project on the company website.

The trail project includes separate paths for walkers and bicyclists, separated from each other with pavers, and separated from traffic with rain gardens of trees, grasses and shrubs, said DRWC Planner/Project Manager Lizzie Woods. The pathway will be illuminated by solar-powered lights.

The project also includes a pocket park with two large benches, in the triangle-shaped bit of land created where Penn Street slips off of Delaware Avenue.

The $1.55 million – a combination of grant money from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the William Penn Foundation and city capital dollars – doesn’t cover the portion of trail through the casino parking lot. SugarHouse is building that section, to the same standards and with the same materials as the other portions of the trail, Woods said.

In fact, future sections of the trail will be built according to these same standards. This section of trail will serve as an example of the design elements and materials, she said.

“It’s a way for us to get something on the ground that shows people in a tangible way, ‘This is what we mean, this is what we want.’” said DRWC’s other planner/project manager, Karen Thompson.

DRWC is also seeking more grant money for the rain gardens, from the Philadelphia Water Department, Woods said. This would free up some of the other funding for other projects, she said.

The goal is an early summer completion.

Design work is about to begin for other pedestrian/cyclist improvements on Spring Garden Street: the Spring Garden Connector project. Like the Race Street Connector – half of which is finished – and the Columbia Avenue Connector projects, the Spring Garden Connector’s goal is to make the passage from the neighborhood, beneath I-95 and to the river, more pleasant and safe.

DRWC awarded the contract to the RBA Group in December, and staff has been working on administrative aspects with them, Thompson said. In about two weeks, the consultant and lighting designer Leni Schwendinger will be meeting with the DRWC board’s planning committee to kick off the design work, she said. A design is expected to be completed in six to eight months.

Further south along the trail, DRWC and contractor Applied Ecological Services have been in “heavy discussions with the DEP and Army Corps and water department to talk about what we can do with Pier 53 to really show the most beneficial ecological uplift,” Woods said.

Future plans call for an ecological wetlands park stretching from Pier 53 to Pier 70. Design work on Pier 53 is set to wrap up in March or April. The goal is to be able to demonstrate the project has so much benefit to the health of the river that other entities required to do environmental remediation could fulfill that requirement by funding part of the wetlands park.

The permitting process for the Pier 53 park will be fairly complex, and could take up to six months, Woods said. The goal is to start construction late this summer, she said.

The next public meeting on this new park, which will adjoin Washington Avenue Green, will take place after the contractor’s design work is complete, Woods said.

This spring, DRWC will create three seating areas along the trail between Pier 53 and Pier 70, with plantings and benches. Eventually, this section of the trail will be rebuilt to the standards of the Penn Street Trail, Woods said, so this is an interim improvement. But the benches will be reused.

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