The much-anticipated contract to extend the Cynwyd Heritage Trail over the Manayunk Bridge was awarded this week, opening the door for construction to start on a bicycle and pedestrian trail that will connect a new but beloved Cynwyd Heritage Trail with bustling Main Street Manayunk and the Schuylkill River Trail network. A.P. Construction, Inc. of Blackwood, N.J., will lead the bridge / trail project, budgeted at $4.12 million. Construction is expected to last between 12 and 15 months. The contractor will be given a notice to proceed in 30 days, and construction will start this summer.
Staff from Lower Merion Township and the City of Philadelphia is coordinating with the numerous project partners on a formal groundbreaking to take place in early September.
“We have been looking forward to extending the Cynwyd Trail over the Schuylkill River ever since we started to redevelop the Cynwyd Trail and the SEPTA Cynwyd train station in 2007,” said Bob Duncan, the Township’s director of Building & Planning. “The Manayunk Bridge connection will be a very special place, not just for Lower Merion and Manayunk, but for the whole Delaware Valley.”
Lower Merion Township is contributing $250,000 in capital funds to the project, and the Township has secured a $500,000 Pennsylvania DCNR Community Conservation Partnerships Program Grant. Major partners in the project include PennDOT, SEPTA, the City of Philadelphia, Montgomery County, the Manayunk Development Corp., the William Penn Foundation, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Grant funding comes from the Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative ($1.3 million) and PennDOT’s Surface Transportation Program ($1.1 million).
“It is because of the incredible strength of this partnership that we were able to secure these grants and to build the political and public support necessary to pull off a complex, multi-municipal transportation improvement,” said Chris Leswing, Lower Merion Township’s assistant director of planning.
With sweeping, unique views of the Schuylkill River and I-76, the landmark bridge has multiple open-spandrel reinforced concrete arches, and was built on a gentle curve over the river. It opened in 1918, and was last used as a railway in 1986.
In its new use, the bridge will serve as a connector, but will have its own design, landscaping and lighting. It will be a destination for trail users from the city as well as suburbs, and will host events.
“This is a big step forward for a remarkable project, one that will connect our new multi-use Cynwyd Heritage Trail to Manayunk on this historic bridge over the Schuylkill River,” said Ward 10 Commissioner Scott Zelov, chair of the Township’s Parks & Recreation Committee. “The view from this bridge is unforgettable.”
The iconic span is about a half-mile long, and about 30 feet in width, and will continue to serve as an active utility corridor. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.