How the “boardwalk’ creates new connectivity

Boardwalk By the Numbers:

  • Length: .41 miles
  • Width: 15 feet wide
  • Distance from shore: 50 feet
  • Number of overlooks: 4
  • Cost: about $17 million (combined federal TIGER and state funds)

It’s a glorious fall day and you have a breakfast meeting at 15th and Walnut. But your office is in the University of Pennsylvania Health complex. You usually count on the Market El to get you back to West Philly. Well, there’s a better option. Ramble down to the new “boardwalk” on the Lower Schuylkill River, a part of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation connector to the Schuylkill River Trail that runs from Locust Street to the South Street Bridge.

Just follow the Schuylkill Banks Trail to the start of the 2,000 foot long concrete and steel structure that puts you out on the river from Locust Street to the new stairtower on the south side of the South Street Bridge.

As the video below will show you, the perspective, in terms of the new South Street Bridge and the development going on in West Philadelphia and University City is unique. And then there is the added bonus of a little stretch of the legs.

The first thing you notice once feet meet “boards” is the cool woodgrain texture of the surface that gives the walking experience a beachy sort of feel. Then there is the experience of seeing both banks of the river from the river. Quirky features like the well thought out safety ladders incrementally placed every couple of hundred feet add a bit of surprise to the commute.

The South Street Bridge looks more muscular when seen from the new view from below and the escape from automobiles – even walking or biking on the South Street Bridge has a safe, secure feel – is welcome relief from the Walnut Street Bridge dodge of death.

What is really striking about using this new transportation feature is how it opens up a whole new world of what was quite the unseen river to Philadelphians. You will see construction cranes all over the place in University City. The traffic on the expressway never sounded so loud, or close by. But the real eye opener is how the boardwalk is part of an aggressive continuum to connect the region with trails.

I asked Beth Miller, Executive Director of the Community Design Collaborative and City Planning Commissioner, what she thought of the newest addition to our waterfront. Her top five takeaways:

1. Great views, new perspectives on the city, new “skyline”

2. Non-auto oriented infrastructure

3. Extends the Circuit ( can hardly wait for it to reach Bartrams…)

4. Symbol of a healthy community with many amenities (from Expressway/Septa etc., becomes a destination, all we need is a “you could be home now” billboard on top of the Locustview)

5. Wide enough for bikes, walkers and pedestrians – great place to see and be seen…

Well said.


Right now, SRDC is working with the City of Philadelphia and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to design and build a trail segment along the east bank of the Schuylkill from South Street to the vicinity of Christian Street. The north end of this trail segment will tie in to the southern end of the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk and the stair tower to the South Street Bridge. This project is currently in final design. Construction will likely start in the spring of 2015. 

The Boardwalk received federal stimulus funding through the Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, and other funding from FHWA, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia. The project was completed in October of 2014.

So take a detour the next time you’re crossing the river and let PlanPhilly know what you think of the boardwalk. Just post your comments on this article!

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