Hundreds of community members, trail advocates and officials convened in the middle of the Manayunk Bridge on Friday to witness a historic moment – the opening of the iconic Manayunk Bridge as a bike-ped bridge.
The new 0.6 Manayunk Bridge Trail connects Lower Merion Township and Philadelphia high above the river and the highway, creating a key link in the Circuit Trails that connects the Cynwyd Heritage Trail with Main Street in Manayunk and the Schuylkill River Trail.
When speaking about the first exclusively pedestrian and cyclists bridge over the Schuylkill River, Jorge Brito of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, said, “the saying ‘never say never’ comes to mind. Projects like this make the city of Philadelphia a landmark.”
Officials, including Mayor Michael Nutter and Elizabeth Rogan gave remarks at the ribbon cutting and reflected on the impact of the project on the region and how it serves as a symbol of the power of collaboration. Mayor Nutter commented “the $5.76 million project revitalized an almost-forgotten bridge and transformed it into a functioning public space that expands and encourages recreational use.”
The story of the Manayunk Bridge Trail is a story of willpower and collaboration. To really appreciate this historic day, one needs to know how we got to this point:
1918 – Manayunk Bridge was built by the Schuylkill Valley Division of Pennsylvania Railroad.
1976 – Bridge was acquired by SEPTA.
1986 – Bridge was closed due to low ridership on the Ivy Ridge Line.
2008-2010 – SEPTA removed the tracks on rail bed and community groups held clean ups, to raise public awareness about restoring the rail line.
Commissioners of Lower Merion Township leased the rail bed from SEPTA and raised the funds to construct the Cynwyd Heritage Trail, which opened in late October 2011.
2008-2009 – The Manayunk Bridge became one of the nine identified gaps in the Complete the Trail campaign that the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia launched with the Manayunk Development Corporation and other organizations.
2010 – The bridge was included in a large proposal written for six counties by the Coalition and Pennsylvania Environmental Council that was submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a grant to build 17 trail segments.
The William Penn Foundation and Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) awarded grants to the Manayunk Development Corporation to conduct a feasibility study of the Manayunk Bridge and Ivy Ridge Trail. These two grants brought all of the stakeholders together to make the project possible.
Late 2010 – The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities applied for a $1.3 million grant from PennDOT’s Pennsylvania Community and Transportation Initiative for the Bridge, allowing consultants to start designing the bridge trail.
October 25, 2011 – Official opening of Lower Merion Township’s adjacent Cynwyd Heritage Trail.
October 28, 2014 – Officials and residents gathered for the groundbreaking of the Manayunk Bridge Trail.
October 30, 2015 – Opening of the Manayunk Bridge.
The project, which broke ground last fall, is a visible reminder of the power of a strong vision and collaboration. As Elizabeth Rogan said, “the achievement is a testament to the leadership of individuals and the power of partnership.”
Alas, one more critical piece of the Circuit puzzle is complete, with 450 miles to go to reach 750 miles of interconnected trails in the nine-county region. The next bike-ped bridge over the Schuylkill will not be far behind.
Barry Seymour, executive director of the Delaware Valley Reginal Planning Commission, put it best when he said the bridge will make us “healthy, wealthy and wise.” So, get out #onthecircuit and use the trail!
For the best route to bicycle to the Manayunk Bridge Trail, explore the Google Map here
August 16, 2012 - The Roxborough Review ran a 2-page article about the trail work happening in and around Lower Merion Township. For the full article, click here: