Last week, the canal towpaths on both sides of the Delaware river in the vicinity of the Scudder Falls Bridge closed as a result of ongoing construction to remediate traffic congestion, and construct a new bridge to replace the functionally obsolete existing I-95 bridge over the river. Intermittent trail closures have occurred since earlier this year when safety was an issue, but this will be one of the longest during the project. The towpaths are scheduled to reopen on October 31.
The Scudder Falls bridge connects PA and NJ via I-95, and carries around 59,000 vehicles per day. The bridge was built in 1959, and is now considered functionally obsolete due to its lack of pedestrian crossing, limited vehicle capacity and aging structure. It’s the same design as the Mianus River Bridge which collapsed in Connecticut on June 28, 1983 killing several motorists. Since then, measures were taken to ensure a collapse wouldn’t happen to the Scudder Falls Bridge, however in order to maintain a safe river crossing, a new bridge must be constructed.
The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) is overseeing the project, and is taking steps to minimize the impact on vehicle and pedestrian traffic in this heavily traveled area. The full project encompasses 4.4 miles of highway along I-95 in PA and NJ. The area along the Delaware river is a popular recreation area, and canal towpaths on both sides of the river provide walkers and cyclists with trails that are fun to ride, and also an alternative to driving in that region.
The new bridge will have two separate dedicated north and south spans. The southbound lanes, or upstream span, will be the first portion constructed. A 10 foot wide pedestrian and bicycle crossing will be installed on the southbound span, and will be the only pedestrian crossing of the 20 bridges DRJTBC oversees able to have walkers and cyclists use it simultaneously.
“(This) will allow for pedestrians and bicyclists to use it at the same time,” said Joe Donnelly, avid cyclist and spokesman for the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC). “This will be the only bridge in our network that would allow the integration of pedestrians and bicyclists at the same time.”
On other pedestrian crossings, cyclists are required to dismount and walk their bikes across the river. Riders will be able to stay on their bikes when the new crossing is open. There is no pedestrian crossing along the existing Scudder Falls Bridge, and the nearest pedestrian crossings are several miles up and down stream at Washington’s Crossing and the Calhoun St. bridge in Trenton.
The project is scheduled to be completed in 2021, and will have connections directly from the bridge to each towpath. According to Donnelly, the closure is necessary to ensure the safety of people using the towpath in the area of the bridge.
Unfortunately there are no posted detours for riders, so if you are going to be traveling in this area, make sure to use GoPhillyGo to plan your alternate route around the bridge before heading out. Make sure to save your planned route in your phone, or write it down so you don’t have to rely on cell service as you navigate around the closure.
Donnelly says that while vehicular traffic is a top concern of this project, he and others involved recognize the value and necessity of the towpaths. “It’s a tremendous resource, and the project team respects the resource that’s there, and is trying to minimize the amount of time that we have to close it,” Donnelly said. “Safety as well as the course of what needs to get done leaves you with no other alternative but to close the trail.”
For more information of the Scudder Falls Bridge Replacement Project click here.