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First Stretch of Delaware River bicycle trail opens (Inquirer)

First stretch of Delaware River bicycle trail opens
Mayor Michael Nutter gives his remarks at the opening of the Delaware River Trail on Monday morning. The trail is sponsored by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, and 5 miles have already been paved and opened. (LUKE RAFFERTY/Staff Photographer).
POSTED: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 5:37 AM

With the snip of a blue ribbon and an inaugural ride by bicyclists, the first 1,400 feet of the Delaware River Trail from Spring Garden Street to Ellen Street was opened Monday morning.

The bicycling, running, and walking trail is separated from Delaware Avenue by shrubbery. It's part of an initiative started by Mayor Nutter in 2009 to create about five miles of trails along the Delaware waterfront to spur development and green transportation.

"The master plan for the central Delaware calls for a continuous waterfront trail to renew our connection to the water's edge," Nutter told a crowd of about 50. "I know, piece by piece, this trail will do just that."

The completed section of the trail was built on public land and ends just before the parking lot of SugarHouse Casino, said Lizzie Woods, project manager for the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. Construction began in early February and finished Friday, Woods said.

The trail is lined with gardens to absorb rainfall and help keep it from overwhelming sewage and drainage systems, and is lit by solar power.

Once the full trail is finished, it will connect with the Circuit, a series of bicycle and pedestrian paths that advocates hope to expand into a citywide transportation system, and the East Coast Greenway, which is projected to run from Maine to Florida and connect the Delaware River and the Schuylkill.

Although the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. plans to complete the trail in 10 to 15 years, it depends on funding and grants. About $500,000 of the $1.5 million project was paid by a grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and the rest came from the city's capital program.

The trails are estimated to cost about $770 million spread over 30 years, with $248 million from city and state funding and the remainder from grants and bonds.

Bicyclists, such as Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia spokesman Nicholas Mirra, hope the trail will be a safer way for riders to travel on the waterfront. He said that despite bike paths on Delaware Avenue, some riders were deterred by cars racing down the street.

"Part of the friction in Philly between drivers and bicyclists [is] perceptions over what a street can be and what a street is for," Mirra said. "Avoiding that when you can by creating a dedicated path is a win for everybody."