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Planning Commission

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Jul 10

Tale of Two Montgomery County Bridges

Posted on July 10, 2015 at 7:42 AM by Michael Stokes

It has been exciting to watch the progress of two potentially transformative bike and pedestrian bridge projects over the Schuylkill River.  The redevelopment of the monumental Manayunk Bridge connecting the popular Cynwyd Heritage Trail in Lower Merion with Manayunk and the Schuylkill River Trail and the development of the new Sullivan’s Bridge at Betzwood connecting Valley Forge National Historical Park with the Schuylkill River Trail will greatly enhance our trail experience.  It appears that the Manayunk Bridge will be finished in a few months, while the Sullivan’s Bridge will be available to us in late spring of next year.

The new Sullivan’s Bridge will replace the very narrow temporary crossing along the Route 422 highway bridge constructed by PennDot to address concerns of area bikers after the closure of the old Betzwood Bridge in 1993.   When complete, the new 14-foot wide Sullivan’s Bridge will offer plenty of room for bikers, walkers, and runners and will be maintained by the Valley Forge National Historical Park.  In addition to the construction of Sullivan’s Bridge, a smaller bridge over the train tracks in Upper Merion Township and trail approaches on either side will be built.  Upper Merion Township is also developing a section of the Schuylkill River West Trail to connect HeuserPark with Sullivan’s Bridge. 

The half-mile long Manayunk Bridge has long been an iconic curiosity to everyone who travels in the Philadelphia area.  Each trip down the Schuylkill Expressway, often stuck in traffic, provides an opportunity to examine the mammoth rail bridge built by the Pennsylvania Railroad during its heyday in 1918.  The bridge was later acquired by SEPTA and used for passenger service until 1986.  Though the bridge remains strong, in the late 1990s SEPTA stabilized and refurbished its exterior skin.  SEPTA will continue to own the bridge and will lease its surface to Philadelphia who will cooperate with Lower Merion Township on the maintenance of the future trail system on it.  In a few months this nearly 100-year old bridge will begin a new life supporting an exciting public space and trail that offer sweeping views of the river, Manayunk and the surrounding hills.

Both bridges will be important elements of the Philadelphia’s regional bike and pedestrian trail circuit   Not only do both bridges allow people to safely cross the river and connect to other great trail opportunities, but the bridges themselves help bring people to the Schuylkill River so that they can experience it in a new way.

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View of the Manayunk Bridge from the Cynwyd Heritage Trail

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Close up of the new railing system being installed on the Manayunk Bridge

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Betzwood Bridge launching over the river from Upper Merion

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