On February 1st, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) will switch bicycle and pedestrian access from the south walkway to the north walkway in preparation for the final phase of the Ben Franklin Bridge Suspension Span and Anchorage Rehabilitation Project. The detour will remain in effect through the winter of 2024. This is the first closure of the south walkway since the ADA-accessible ramp was completed in June of 2019. We were notified at that time that eventually, the DRPA would have to close the ramp for the rehab project.
For decades, the north walkway has been a headache for bridge users simply because the reconstruction of the walkway wasn’t finished and cyclists and pedestrians had to navigate through a 800-foot long, 36-inch wide cattle chute. Additionally, there were no pedestrian traffic control devices or curb ramps on the Philadelphia side. In 2021, the DRPA opened a new ADA-accessible crosswalk on New Street. The DRPA also finished the sidewalk on the Camden side as part of the bridge rehab project. However, the stair tower on the Camden side remains, making it difficult or impossible for some users to access the bridge from that side. .
For those of you who remember the stair towers on the north side, it is 39 steps with two landings and a steel plate on the outside to roll bikes and scooters along. Be sure to add a few minutes to your commute with this in mind.
If you have difficulty accessing the bridge your alternate routes are:
- PATCO High-Speed Line at Broadway and MLK in Camden and 8th and Market in Philadelphia.
- NJ TRANSIT buses at Bridge Plaza in Camden (just beyond the toll booths) and 8th and Vine in Philadelphia.
- The Tacony-Palmyra Bridge Sidewalk is seven miles upriver. While there aren’t any stairs along this crossing, the crossing is relatively narrow, but the walkway is now open 24/7 weather permitting. The City is also making improvements that will make it easier to access the K&T trail from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.
As someone who has crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge thousands of times in the last 20 years, this is indeed disappointing news. Looking ahead, this may establish discussion on the importance of building a complementary ramp on the north walkway as bridge maintenance will be an on-going factor to consider for the DRPA. After all, the Ben Franklin Bridge is about providing residents safe, accessible connectivity to New Jersey’s most disadvantaged city. After the ramp was opened in 2019, the largest demographic group to utilize this improved connection were the residents of Camden who relied on the ramp that connected New Jersey and Pennsylvania over the Delaware with incredible views along the way.