DRPA panel approves new plan for bike ramp at bridge

Posted: May 09, 2014

CAMDEN The newest plan for a bicycle and pedestrian ramp on the Camden side of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge calls for a single slope, with a "bump-out" platform to slow bike traffic.

The $2.9 million plan was approved Wednesday by a Delaware River Port Authority committee, and the full board is expected to vote on it May 21.

If approved, the final design will be completed this year and the ramp will be built next year, chief engineer Mike Venuto said.

The new plan is the latest wrinkle in a long debate over how - and whether - to build a ramp to replace a staircase with 39 steps at the Camden end on the south side of the 1.5 mile-long bridge.

On the Philadelphia end, the existing walkway descends gently without stairs.

Earlier designs included proposals for descending switchbacks, to prevent bikes from going too fast.

The latest plan is for a single slope, with a level platform at about the location of the current staircase to slow bike riders.

The platform would extend out from the bridge, carrying the walkway around a steel fence enclosure.

DRPA board member William Sasso wondered Wednesday whether the steel fence would be a hazard for cyclists, and suggested the barrier be built of a more forgiving material.

"I think I'd rather go over a speed bump than ride into a steel fence," Sasso said.

John Boyle of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, which has led a long campaign for a ramp, said the group was pleased with the design.

"I didn't see any problem with that design," he said. Of the bump-out, he said, "they just need to make sure it's well-marked."

The DRPA board removed plans for the ramp from its budget in 2011 in a cost-cutting move, but the agency restored the ramp after a concerted push by the bicycle coalition was joined by area business and political leaders.

"We are ecstatic," Boyle said Wednesday. "It has been a long time coming. When I joined the Bicycle Coalition in about 1992, we were talking about, 'What are we going to do with those stairs?' "

"For the last 13 years, we've been working with them on this."

The planned ramp will be about 800 feet long and 10 feet wide, landing at street level in Camden at Fifth Street.

The ramp will essentially restore a walkway that was removed 64 years ago.

Until 1950, the bridge had a sidewalk that followed the slope of the bridge to the ground in Camden. It was replaced with the stairway during a road-widening project.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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