The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s proposal to build a new bicycle trail along Delaware Avenue from Washington Avenue to Spring Garden Street was met with general assent from the small crowd that attended a public meeting Monday night. Should the plan see fruition, the improved trail would give Philly’s popular — and crowded — Schuylkill River Trail some competition for the city’s runners and cyclists.
The proposal would effectively replace the bike lane along the east side of Delaware Avenue with a two-way cycle track separated from the roadway by a series of plantings, similar to how the freight rail line in the middle of the roadway now works. The plan would rely on using the large sidewalks and other space between the road and the river. None of Delaware Avenue’s travel lanes would be lost.
In some areas, another strip of plants would separate cyclists from pedestrians; in narrower sections, the sidewalk and the bike track would be juxtaposed. Currently, the sidewalk gives way to parallel-parking spots in some places. Under the DRWC’s proposal, those on-street parking spaces would be sacrificed to the new trail. DRWC planners were quick to note, though, that there are only a handful of on-street spaces along the 3.4-mile route, and that they often go unused.
Two men who live at the Residences at Dockside said they were a bit uneasy about the potential conflict between cyclists heading both ways and cars entering and leaving the waterfront condo complex. DRWC project manager Chris Dougherty noted that the driveways would be set off with signs, warning cyclists to look out for cars. The trail itself would also demark driveways and other conflict points by using different paving materials. The Dockside residents, who declined to give their names, said they supported the proposal, despite their concerns.
Pennsport resident Kathy O'Neill attended the meeting along with some friends from her running group, the South Philly Striders. They’re fans of the proposal.
“Our regular running trail is usually from Front and South [streets], exactly where they're building this trail, up to Penn Treaty Park,” said O’Neill. “So, we're thrilled to have it, to make it more beautiful, to make it safer.”
Before construction can begin, the DRWC will need the city’s Planning Commission to sign off, along with the Streets Department and PennDOT, and then it must convince City Council to pass an authorizing ordinance. Thanks to councilmanic prerogative, where other council members defer to the district representative on seemingly hyperlocal matters, that means all the DRWC really needs is the support of Councilman Mark Squilla, who represents the entirety of the central Delaware River waterfront.
DRWC estimates the trail will cost $21 million to design and build. Should the trail receive all requisite regulatory approvals, construction would begin in spring 2019 and wrap up in summer 2020.
Separate from the trail proposal, DRWC is also soliciting bids to develop a parking lot it owns on Delaware Avenue at Vine Street, across from Dave and Buster’s. The nonprofit is looking to replace the 1.6-acre surface parking area with a mixed-use development that is “consistent with its mission and the values and goals established in the Master Plan for the Central Delaware.”