Long-awaited Wilmington bike trail taking shape

Workers have installed the arch supports for the longest bike bridge ever built in Delaware across the Christina River. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Workers have installed the arch supports for the longest bike bridge ever built in Delaware across the Christina River. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

A long-planned bike trail extending from the Wilmington Riverfront to New Castle is part of Delaware’s ongoing effort to make it easier for cyclists to get to the city of Wilmington.

However, the trail comes with a hefty price tag.

Drivers on I-95 near Wilmington may have noticed construction underway in the marshy area beside the Christina River just south of the city. The arches that will support a nearly 300 foot crossing over the Christina River are now in place as part of the mile-long trail.

“The project’s been in the works for about 10 years and I’ve actually worked on it for about the last seven,” said DelDOT’s Jeff Niezgoda,  Planning Division assistant director.

Building the elevated boardwalk and the longest bike bridge ever built in Delaware all through sensitive marsh land has been challenging, even though it’s only a mile long.

“It’s in a very environmentally sensitive area, you’ve got a bridge crossing across the Christina River approximately 300 feet in length, we have two other structures, one leading up to the nature center here, and then the ground is very soft that we’re working on,” Niezgoda said. “Everything that we’re working on is structure related with an elevated boardwalk and whatnot.”

(photo courtesy DelDOT)
(photo courtesy DelDOT)

And the short trail costs $20 million to build.

“It’s an investment, and of course it sounds like a lot of money,” said Niezgoda, as he looked over the project from the deck of the DuPont Environmental Education Center. “When you have three structures, one right behind us here that’s a major structure and then the one over the Christina River, the price tag on that was between $6 and 8 million just to get over that river.”

A federal government fund designed to reduce congestion and improve air quality is covering 80 percent of the cost.

The trail is the final link to connect a seven mile off-road route between the Wilmington Riverfront and the town of New Castle.

The new trail extends from the DuPont Environmental Education Center south of the Wilmington Riverfront for about a mile before eventually crossing the Christina near I-95. When it’s finished next June, the trail will be named in honor of former Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who is an avid cyclist and completed a cross-country bike ride earlier this summer.

This drone video from DelDOT show the installation process for one bridge structure near the DuPont Environmental Education Center:

(photo courtesy DelDOT)
(photo courtesy DelDOT)

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