The Recently Opened Manayunk Bridge in Philadelphia Is a Big Deal

As a symbol of a changing economy and a changing city, the rails-to-trails conversion of the Manayunk Bridge in Philadelphia bears close scrutiny.

Read Time: 2 minutes

November 3, 2015, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

"The Manayunk Bridge starts its next chapter Friday when it reopens as a recreational trail connecting the Cynwyd Heritage Trail in Lower Merion to Manayunk and the nearby Schuylkill River Trail," reports Jim Saksa, "shifting from an icon of bygone gritty industry and regional infighting to a future incumbent on recruiting residents and businesses by making the region as a whole more attractive."

The bridge's reopening occurs during a period of revitalization for the Manayunk neighborhood—contemporary construction is finally back on track after the Great Recession slowed the neighborhood's momentum carrying back the late '90s:

"At the foot of the bridge, on Manayunk’s Venice Island, a 150-unit apartment complex is starting to take shape. Another 150-unit complex opened earlier this year, prominently advertising it’s proximity to trails. Across the river, O’Neill Properties is building a $130 million, 600-unit luxury apartment complex. As part of the project, the developer is constructing connections to the Cynwyd Heritage Trail and rehabbing another abandoned rail bridge, the Pencoyd Bridge, into a pedestrian and bicycle path."

The article goes on to muse in more depth about the importance on the bridge as an amenity not only for the neighborhood, but also for the city and region. Saksa speaks with Michael DiBerardinis, deputy mayor and commissioner of Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation Department, who says that the bridge fits into a collection of green and open spaces that helps Philadelphia compete with places like Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco for residents and jobs.

Another of the larger implications of the project: the bridge adds to the city's 171 rails-to-trails projects. That total leads the country. "By connecting the Schuylkill River Trail and the Lower Cynwyd Trail, the Manayunk Bridge is forming a critical link in the Circuit, a proposed 750-mile network of trails in Greater Philadelphia," writes Saksa. "So far, over 300 miles have been built. The hard part now is finding ways to connect isolated and disparate trails into one cohesive and comprehensive system."

The article includes a lot more about the Manayunk Bridge and what it means the historical moment facing the city and region of Philadelphia—it's recommended reading for planners and developers interested in integrating adaptive reuse of historic structures into active public spaces as a component of revitalization and economic development plans.

Friday, October 30, 2015 in Plan Philly

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

View of Tacoma, Washington with Mount Rainier in background

Tacoma Developing New Housing Policy

The city’s Home in Tacoma plan is designed to address the region’s growth and rising housing prices, but faces local backlash over density and affordability concerns.

48 minutes ago - The Urbanist

Green alley under construction

A New Paradigm for Stormwater Management

Rather than shuttling stormwater away from the city and into the ocean as quickly as possible, Los Angeles is now—slowly—moving toward a ‘city-as-sponge’ approach that would capture and reclaim more water to recharge crucial reservoirs.

1 hour ago - Curbed

Aerial view of residential neighborhood in La Habra, California at sunset

Orange County Project Could Go Forward Under ‘Builder’s Remedy’

The nation’s largest home builder could receive approval for a 530-unit development under an obscure state law as the city of La Habra’s zoning laws hang in limbo after the state rejected its proposed housing plan.

2 hours ago - Orange County Register