There’s now one more way for bicyclists (and walkers and runners) to cross between New Jersey and Pennsylvania — using the new 0.7-mile bike-ped path along the new $534 million (or is it $570 million? After once being projected to cost “just” $310 million?) Scudders Falls Bridge project on I-295.
It opened about a week ago so of course we had to check it out. And it’s great, with long ramps on both ends up to bridge height about 23 feet above the river from the D&R Canal towpath on the Jersey side and the Delaware Canal towpath (part of the D&L Trail) on the PA side as well as a few bump-outs so you can pull over and stare northward (or downward).
OK, maybe the turn onto the NJ bridge ramp could be less sharp. Or is that to keep people from screaming down the ramp and not looking when merging onto the towpath?
It also means that one of the many NJ-PA loops between the two trails is now two, one just 7 miles to Washington Crossing and back and the other 10.8 miles down to Trenton and back. The signs are already updated!
Our plan was to ride from Washington Crossing on the NJ side down to the bridge, cross over and head back, but it was such a sunny day and mild for November that we headed up to New Hope and Lambertville before looping back.
The towpaths looked good two months after Hurricane Ida. And check out those ghostly white branches.
But heading north in Pennsylvania we came across a wide spillway with water flowing across. Do you dare, or is it time to turn back?
Go for it, but make sure you have enough speed to coast through, particularly at the northern end where it gets deeper. One in our group ended up with wet feet! I’d have given myself a bigger headstart than this woman had from the northern end. But at least she avoided the worst.
On the New Jersey side, the canal waters were placid as could be, quite the contrast to the whitecaps on the river.
As we finished our ride, we ran into someone I know, a very casual cyclist who was out with his wife to bike over the bridge for the second time in four days. She recalled how controversial the bike-ped path was and the debate over whether it should be axed to save a small share of the project’s cost. Now, she says, she wants to thank all who fought for it.
So do I.
3 thoughts on “A new bike crossing over the Delaware River”
Any idea what they said the actual incremental cost to put the bike/ped pathway on the bridge was?
I ask because we lost one of these fights and I’m still skeptical of the price estimate we were given.
Good question! So back in 2010 the cost was estimated at $18 million according to this report (https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/local/20100428_New_Scudder_Falls_bridge_to_include_bike_path.html) and in 2019 this report from Philadelphia bicycle advocates said $14 million (https://bicyclecoalition.org/scudder-falls-bicycle-and-pedestrian-walkway-across-the-delaware-will-open-in-2020/). Split the difference and it would be 5% of the original price estimate for the entire project. Not that the total number from a decade ago is anywhere close to what this bridge replacement actually cost, even after accounting for inflation.
Either way, I don’t think the bike path dollar figure is the incremental cost. My read is that the bike path got allocated a share of all the design and permitting costs, etc. Not, say, the extra cost of making pilings strong enough to handle the extra weight of the path.
The path and those ramps did take a while to build, though. But then there was all kinds of additional roadwork done away from the bridge that is part of this project. Plus road widenings.
Perhaps the question is what is the all-in cost with the bike path and the all-in cost without?
Well we were told about $60 million for a 2-mile bridge so that isn’t too far off the early estimate above. And I agree, in conceptual phase they usually use the same per-sq-foot cost as general travel lanes rather than, say, a 200 lb/sq-ft needed for pedestrians. Sometimes they insist they will have to drive maintenance vehicles on it. I suspect many bridge sidepaths are overbuilt when they could just be separate structures attached to the bridge, rather than structurally part of it.