By Anya Saretzky
The Ben Franklin Bridge is an iconic feature in the Greater Philadelphia region. Spanning the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, it is a vital connector for both vehicular and non-motorized traffic, but not without its challenges.
Caitlin Teefey recently relocated from Pensacola, Florida to Philadelphia and gets around almost exclusively by bike. In Pensacola, she reports, that would have been impossible. Currently, she’s completing her degree in Healthcare Administration while simultaneously serving as her nephew’s full-time nanny. And because her nephew’s favorite activity is riding on the back of his aunt’s bike, they spend plenty of time exploring the Circuit Trails!
One of their first outings on the Circuit Trails was across the river to Camden’s Adventure Aquarium by way of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Camden GreenWay. “We could have taken the easy way and just drove but we decided that biking over the Ben Franklin Bridge would be a better way to see the city. It’s great exercise and it’s doable. And I didn’t want to pay the toll!”
At the end of her voyage across the bridge, a surprise was in store for her: “I had no idea there would be those extremely steep and narrow stairs. Balancing the bike with a baby on the back was a challenge, but well worth it.” Luckily, she was with her brother who could help her safely carry her bike with the baby aboard down the stairs.
Without someone to lend a hand, Caitlin says she is unwilling to take her nephew over the bridge. “By myself, it would be unsafe. It’s just way too narrow. Taking the baby out [of the bike seat] would be too huge of a deal.” If there was a ramp, Caitlin says she would take the trip over the bridge every day. She also thinks that many more people would use the bridge if a ramp was constructed.
Caitlin was happy to hear that plans are in the works to build a ramp on the Camden side of the bridge. The project is currently close to the end of final design. The Delaware River Port Authority reports that the project will be put out to bid for construction in 2016. Construction will take about a year to complete.
Once the ramp is complete, we hope to see many more families making the trip over the Ben Franklin Bridge!
Looking for an exciting outdoor challenge? Why not tackle a new challenge and support a great cause!
On September 12, runners and walkers are invited to enjoy the scenic cliff paths of the Boxers’ Trail in East Fairmont Park during the Boxers’ Trail 5K. Proceeds from the Boxers' Trail 5K benefit Mander Recreation Center in North Philadelphia, which organizes youth programs, including runs along the Boxers' Trail. Race Day registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the race begins at 9:30 a.m. Click Here to register.
Later this fall, experience views of Philadelphia unlike ever before during the Cooper-Norcross Run the Bridge Challenge on November 1! The 10K certified course begins at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge on the New Jersey side, crosses the bridge, doubles back, takes you through the waterfront area and finishes in Campbell's Field. A two-mile bridge walk immediately follows the start of the run. Also available to runners and walkers is a Dedication Bib where $100 participants will have the opportunity to run or walk for a cause and each participant’s cause will be promoted on Run the Bridge’s Facebook page. Don’t want to leave the kiddos behind? During the race, an event for kids will simultaneously take place at Campbell's Field. Click here to register.
With the iconic Broad Street Run just a few weeks away, Philly Mag shared some of the best running trails and parks in the Philadelphia area and beyond, and several Circuit trails made the recommended list! Trails with spectacular views included the Ben Franklin Bridge, Boxers’ Trail, Cobbs Creek Trail, Cynwyd Heritage Trail, Wissahickon Trail, Tyler State Park, Valley Forge Historic National Park, Schuylkill River Trail, and Cooper River Park. Go to Philly Mag to see the full list of trails and parks to take advantage of while the weather is warming up!
On Thursday, September 26th, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) Board approved 13 projects for funding from the final phase of the Regional Trail Program, which was created and funded by a $10 million grant from the William Penn Foundation.
The Regional Trail Program aims to provide funding for targeted, priority trail design, construction and planning projects that will promote a truly connected, regional network of multi-use trails (the Circuit) with Philadelphia and Camden as its hub.
Phase III of the program provided capital funding for trail design and construction projects. Approximately $4 million was available for Phase III grants. Individual grant awards are capped at $500,000 and all projects require a 20 percent match. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in March and 31 proposals were submitted by the deadline in mid-April. The proposals were evaluated by a Selection Committee composed of Foundation representatives, PennDOT and NJDOT, DVRPC staff, and regional trail funders and advocates.
Based on Committee review and subsequent follow-up, the following 13 projects were recommended for funding and approved on Thursday by the DVRPC Board.
Total grant request amount for all 13 Phase III projects is $3,988,608. The total match amount is $9,318,081 and the total cost of all the projects is $13,306,149.
Phase III represents the final amount of funding available from this program. Future funding depends on the DVRPC board. This is why the Circuit Coalition currently is running the Circuit Committment campaign, seeking a decision from the DVRPC Board to replenish the fund with $10 Milion over a three year period.
Camden County Public Works is putting the finishing touches on the Pearl Street Connector in Camden, creating a gateway from the Ben Franklin Bridge walkway and the Rutgers Campus to the Wiggins Waterfront Promenade. Pearl St is the last of three TIGER projects in Camden which included bike lanes and streetscape improvements on the Camden GreenWay segments of Martin Luther King Drive and Pine St.
Pearl St is the highest visibility project since it connects two existing segments of the Circuit. Pearl St features new lighting, sharrows bike racks, four way stop signs, marked crosswalks and curb extensions. Navigational pedestrian signage similar to the Center City District sign system have also been put in place.
Camden County Public Works has done an admirable job on all three projects and the County should celebrate their achievement. The Circuit Coalition is currently working to convince Camden County officials to stage a ribbon cutting for the Camden GreenWay projects, perhaps at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge. In contrast Pennsylvania ribbon cuttings are almost becoming routine, with Mayor Nutter using the giant scissors on 3 Circuit Trail projects and in the fall another event will be held with the opening of the Port Richmond Trail.
Complete Streets Policy
The other exciting news for Camden is the adoption of a complete streets policy by City Council resolution in early June. Many thanks to the Camden Green Team which worked hard to create the language and recommend adoption of a policy. Camden is the 58th municipality in New Jersey to adopt a policy and the second in Camden County.
What's Next For Camden?
The State Street Bridge project is nearing completion. The original historic bridge is being replaced by a new structure, however the old bridge is being preserved for bicycle and pedestrian use and in the future it could connect the Cooper River Trail with the proposed southern end of the Delaware River Heritage Trail at the Kroc Center in the Cramer Hill section of the City.
An existing park and trail that was never officially opened is Cooper River Park West or Gateway Park. Adjacent to the Admiral Wilson Blvd is in the process of an ownership transfer from the Delaware River Port Authority to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. The trail in Cooper River Park west is a key component of the Cooper River Trail which when completed will improve and extend the trail from the Ben Franklin Bridge to Haddonfield. If you are interested in updates to the status of the park then "Like" The Friends of Cooper River Park West Facebook Page.
Finally design work on the Ben Franklin Bridge ramp continues. We are expecting a vote in the coming weeks for the final design of the ramp. The Circuit Coalition's prefers Alternative 2 which is a straight down ramp that will also widen a narrow section of the bridge walkway. Watch this blog for an upcoming campaign to endorse the straight down ramp in the coming days.