Design and construction of the Schuylkill River Parks Connector Bridge in Center City Philadelphia helped restore pedestrian access to the river and to the accompanying trail and greenway that had been blocked by a CSX freight railroad line.

The bridge had to fit into a compact space with minimal negative impact on surrounding facilities, including a community garden, a dog park and the Schuylkill Banks trail and greenway.

Working in a tight space, the project team took measures to minimize the size of the bridge structure that traverses the rail line. By negotiating with the railroad, the team was able to reduce the structure's minimum vertical clearance from 23 ft to under 21 ft, which enabled shorter ramps leading to the bridge.

The structure's footprint was also reduced by an interpretation of the slope for ramps required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was verified with the Federal Highway Administration that 5-ft landings were not required as frequently for recreational trails, which resulted in shorter ramp lengths.

To minimize interruptions to the railroad, the bridge was constructed off-site and erected onto cast-in-place abutments in only a few hours. The ramp by the river was constructed on old relieving platforms. Special designs were developed to ensure that there was adequate support for the ramps without affecting the structural integrity of the platforms and bulkheads.

CSX had required a complete enclosure of the bridge with a protected canopy; however, the local community wanted scenic overlooks and an aesthetically pleasing "light and airy" structure. To satisfy both issues, the design team decided on inset panels within the frames of the bridge truss, which provided railroad protection and also allowed an unobstructed view of the truss.

Three overlooks were included on the ramps to provide park views. Historic interpretive signage was included with area-specific information on Philadelphia's industrial past. The team phased construction sequence to allow temporary public park access at all times.


Schuylkill River Parks Connector Bridge, Philadelphia, Pa.

Key Players

Owner City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Developer Schuylkill River Development Corp.

Contractor Rockport Construction Co.

Construction Manager Jacobs Engineering

Structural/Civil Engineer HNTB Corp.

Environmental Engineer Urban Engineers

Landscape Architect Menke & Menke

Subcontractors Miller Bros; Terra Structures; All Seasons Landscaping; General Asphalt; Hall Industries; Contech Construction Products; Green Estates Lawn Sprinklers; Knight Bros.; J.C. Lindstrom; Northeast Fence; Germantown Welding; L&R Construction; Cook Drilling