Bikers, joggers and walkers along the Schuylkill River Trail will soon have a wider and safer path to use on Kelly Drive in East Falls.
Mayor Michael Nutter along with other City officials and community groups gathered at a parking lot on Kelly Drive on Monday morning to celebrate the official groundbreaking of a portion of the trail.
The $1.1 million Parks and Recreation project includes the removal of the existing sidewalk on Kelly Drive between Ridge Avenue and Falls Bridge as well as the construction of an eight to 10 foot wide recreation path which will be rerouted behind a brand new parking lot.
Mayor Nutter calls it another great investment for the city.
“Creating these kinds of walking trails and bike paths and the like are very important to continuing our commitment to becoming not only the greenest city in America but also one of the healthier cities,” Nutter explained at the podium in front of the Schuylkill River.
Deputy Mayor and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis says the trail will provide a key link in the entire Fairmount Park trail system.
“When this is completed, the trail will start at Love Park and follow continuously through a well maintained, well built trail all the way to Northwestern Avenue,” DiBerardinis said. He added that recreation officials have their sights set on ultimately connecting the trail to Pottstown.
The new path along Kelly Drive will be safer for the cyclists, pedestrians and joggers who currently share a narrow sidewalk from the congested SEPTA bus depot on Ridge Avenue to the Falls Bridge in East Falls.
Gina Snyder, president of the East Falls Development Corporation, says it will be a huge economic boon for Northwest Philadelphia. She says an average of 15,000 visitors use the trail per week, but those numbers tend to drop significantly at this section because of a lack of trail connection to Manayunk and Roxborough.
“Anything that we can do to make the connection stronger is really going to help us economically,” Snyder said.
Some trail users have expressed concern about the detour route being too dangerous for trail users since it passes through a major bridge reconstruction project on Ridge Avenue.
Snyder’s advice for them is to pick another trail to use temporarily.
“There’s no way for us to plan it so it works perfectly with all other construction, you just can’t time it,” Snyder said. “This project has been some 20 years in the making and when it’s finally time to go, we’re not going to say stop, you just have to go.”
Construction crews will officially begin work this week.
“The only thing better than a groundbreaking of course is a ribbon cutting and we look forward to both,” Mayor Nutter said. “In a couple of months when the weather is warmer, we’re gonna cut a ribbon and get a bunch of cyclists out here.”
The project is scheduled to be complete by the end of June.