The Connected Urban Landscape

Rails to Trails Discovers Bridges

Schuylkill Banks

Part rails to trails, part bridge reconstruction, and part recreation path, the bridge to trail movement is going strong, buoyed by projects such as the High Line that redeveloped an elevated freight rail line into a multi-purpose urban park. These infrastructure projects provide vital linkages that make access easier, safer and faster for urban commuters and recreational users.  The projects are popular in part because they allow for alternatives to vehicular commuting, complement healthier lifestyles and provide amenities that are popular in urban neighborhoods.

The success of initial projects such as New York’s Walkway over the Hudson makes it easier for other municipalities to plan and fund similar projects. Philadelphia has the Schuylkill Banks, and the soon to be restored Manayunk rail bridge, part of the Schuylkill River Trail. Federal funding from the Department of Transportation are used to partially fund the construction; however the trails generate tremendous grassroots support from nearby communities and are frequently run by non-profit organizations and partially maintained by volunteers.

Walkway Over Hudson

Bottom Line:  Urban amenity and infrastructure projects have a multiplier effect on economic development by turning underutilized infrastructure into an engine for redevelopment and investment. The Walkway over the Hudson bridge has three times more visitors than originally projected and is a driver of tourists to the region.  The High Line’s impact as noted in previous blog posts leveraged $115 million park into $2 Billion dollar private investment in and around the elevated park.

Photo credit: Walkway over the Hudson

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