Opening of Schuylkill trail's South-to-Christian segment delayed

Runners and a cyclist on the Schuylkill River Trail in June 2016. A new section of the trail, stretching from South to Christian Streets, had been expected to open in December but the opening has been delayed.

The opening of a new segment of the Schuylkill River Trail that would stretch from South to Christian Streets has been delayed, likely until at least mid-summer.

The South-to-Christian section, which would connect to the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, had originally been slated to open in December but was delayed because some work hadn't yet been finished due to funding issues.

Tasks that still need completed include installing fencing, landscaping, trail furnishings like trash cans and benches, irrigation and lighting, said Joseph Syrnick, president of the Schuylkill River Development Corp.

Bids for that work are due later month and the hope is to have a contract in place in time to start work by late March, he said.

If all goes according to plan, the segment would open by mid-to-late July, extending the popular running, walking and biking trail by 1,400 feet, or slightly more than a quarter-mile.

"We're anxious to do it," Syrnick said.

But he cautioned that time frame could be delayed again: If trees and plants are not selected, delivered to the site, and in the ground by mid-June, the work would need to be pushed back until the fall planting season, prolonging the opening of the trail.

"It's a lot of work to get done in a few months," he said.

A PennDot Multimodal Transportation Fund grant of $911,000 announced this fall will enable the completion of that work, the project's second phase.

Now, the bulk of the trail's infrastructure and retaining wall are in place as crews finish up work that was part of the project's $3.5 million first phase.

The new trail section would link to the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk that stretches from South to Locust streets and opened to much fanfare in 2014. 

While some of the yet-to-be-done tasks sound cosmetic, Syrnick said pedestrians and cyclists can't start using the trail until the vast majority of the work is done, making the path free of equipment.

"You wouldn't want to be doing extensive landscaping work with the trail open," he said.

The trail's location — bordered by the river and railroad tracks — has posed as a challenge for crews accessing the site, he said.

In an effort to expand another part of the region's trail network, a meeting will take place Thursday evening for the public to learn about and comment on the Schuylkill swing bridge, which would connect the Grays Ferry Crescent Trail to Bartram's Mile.