Schuylkill River Greenways, project funders, project supporter Peggy Whittaker, elected officials, and dozens of cyclists celebratory the grand opening of the Richard P. Whittaker, M.D. Memorial Bridge Monday morning which spans Route 724 in Union Township.
“This is an incredibly exciting and long-anticipated day for all users of the Schuylkill River Trail and for the entire community. Schuylkill River Greenways is committed to constantly improving the safety and enjoyment of the trail, even while we are simultaneously working feverishly to expand it,” said Schuylkill River Greenways Executive Director Elaine Paul Schaefer. “This project is a great example of our engaged community members and our government coming together to invest in an extraordinary asset and the economic future of our region.”
The Whittaker Bridge is accessible by walking or cycling. Trail users can reach the bridge by starting from Fork & Ale located at 1281 E. Main St. in Union Township or from the Morlatton Village Trailhead located at 480 Old Philadelphia Pike in Douglassville.
The new 125-foot-long concrete box beam bridge has asphalt approaches and an overhead safety canopy. The bridge construction began in February. A few hundred feet of the Schuylkill River Trail was closed for the past seven months near the construction site. Trail users have highly anticipated the reopening of this section and the addition of a pedestrian bridge.
The bridge location, often referred to as the Monocacy Crossing, is along the Thun Section of the trail. It’s a high-traffic area with poor sight distances and cars traveling at a high speed. Before the bridge, users had to descend a steep slope to cross Route 724 and ascend another slope on the opposite road bank.
Schuylkill River Greenways installed visible warning signs at the intersection in 2016. Those signs were paid for through the Safe Crossings Program which the Sly Fox Brewery donates funds toward from the proceeds of SRT Ale. Recently, these funds have gone toward the construction of the Whittaker Bridge.
The construction project is totaled to be about $1.15 million. Peggy Whittaker donated a generous amount to help fund the project in honor of her late husband, Dr. Richard P. Whittaker, for whom the bridge is named. Schuylkill River Greenways was awarded a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant for the project. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission also provided funding.
“The new ADA accessible Whittaker Bridge opens up this section of the Schuylkill River Trail to families with young children and other riders who were not able to manage the steep slopes of the on-road crossing,” said Schuylkill River Greenways Trails Director Julia Farrell Hurle.
More than 75 miles of the Schuylkill River Trail is currently open to the public throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. The multi-use path will extend 120 miles when completed from Frackville in Schuylkill County, through Berks, Montgomery, Chester Counties, and to Philadelphia.