Support Grows for Continuous Bicycle and Walking Connection on Ben Franklin Bridge

Last night, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) outlined the three current design alternatives for the planned Ben Franklin Bridge pedestrian and bicyclist ramp and solicited feedback from the public on a preferred design. The ramp project is poised to greatly expand the safety and convenience of non-motorized travel between southern New Jersey and Philadelphia by removing the existing stair tower and replacing it with an ADA-accessible ramp. Specifics on the three current alternatives have been posted on the DRPA website.

TSTC and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia support a final ramp design without switchbacks that would also widen a narrow existing section of walkway between 3rd and 4th Streets. This design would have the ramp touch down at 5th Street and would allow for continuous westbound travel for pedestrians, bicyclists and those in wheelchairs towards Rutgers University, downtown Camden and points beyond. (DRPA’s project consultants performed pedestrian and bicyclist counts in January 2013 and found that the vast majority of current walkway users are traveling to and from 5th Street).

The option of widening the narrow walkway section and providing a continuous ramp without switchbacks is reflected in “Alternative 2,” which is projected to cost $2.9 million. This alternative is a great bang for the buck, and is significantly less expensive than the $4.3 million projected cost for “Alternative 3,” which includes one switchback and was designed to save seven parking spaces on Pearl Street, where the ramp would touch down. With a large number of parking spaces available, a good number of which remain vacant, on the nearby Camden waterfront and transit access to the surrounding area via the RiverLINE and PATCO, this minimal loss of parking should not be a significant factor in selecting a ramp design. “Alternative 1” is only projected to be slightly less costly than “Alternative 2,” would include three switchbacks, and would not widen the current narrow walkway section.

Taking last night’s public statements, and additional public comments generated via email, into consideration, the DRPA Board will move to select the preliminary design for this project sometime this summer, and identify a final design by fall. Construction is scheduled to take place in the first half of 2014.

The public can still provide feedback on the ramp designs by emailing bikeramp@drpa.org.

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