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After the dust and initial joy about the Manayunk Bridge Trail settled last Friday, there were many questions about it. Specifically, trail users wanted to know A) Why there were gates at the trail entrances and B) Why they were closed.

Below, we’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions our members, and trail users, have asked about the Bridge since it opened.

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What are the hours of the Manayunk Bridge?

The bridge opens at 8am and closes at 6pm from November 1-March 31. From April 1-October 31, it opens at 8am and closes at 9pm.

Huh? Why does it close at all?

There are a couple reasons for that. First off, technically, since the trail is part of the parks system, it closes at dusk. Given we’re now in Eastern Standard Time, it gets dark early.

“[Lower Merion Township] parks people don’t start at 6 am or work until midnight when people want the bridge open,” says Chris Leswing, assistant director of building and planning at Lower Merion Township. “We need to work with Philadelphia and the Manayunk Development Corp on hours of operation.”

So that’s it? Just rework the hours?

Haha, no. Officials won’t keep the bridge open after dark until there’s proper lighting on the bridge—and lighting was not part of the initial budget.

“The bridge has the conduit for lighting, but lighting has not been designed, estimated or budgeted. We also need to think about lighting on the [Lower Merion] side and where that leads to,” Leswing adds. “Lighting on the bridge has two parts…decorative and practical. Lighting on the [Lower Merion] side is for safety. Decorative lighting is expensive and we will need sponsors. A similar coalition of stakeholders that got the bridge approved will be required to work through the details.”

But the bridge was, in part, paid for with federal transportation dollars. Shouldn’t such projects serve a transportation purpose?

There is no requirement that stipulates that federally funded trails need to be open after dark to accommodate transportation needs, but trail projects that don’t benefit surface transportation are easy targets for our adversaries in Congress who oppose money set aside for trails.

So, what are our options?

For the time being, nothing is going to change. The bridge will close at 6 throughout the winter. Organizers need to raise sufficient funds to add lighting to the bridge, then regroup and get the hours changed.

How can you help?

The Friends groups (Ivy Ridge and Cynwyd) were created to help advocate/fundraise for these types of discretionary amenities beyond the core public walkway. Lighting and operations comes from different pots of money than design and construction. The Bicycle Coalition and other advocates will be involved in this process.

“The public interest in this project is exciting and we will work to catch up with the expectations,” adds Leswing.

Randy LoBasso

Author

Randy LoBasso is the policy director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

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