MANAYUNK >> The long-awaited lighting for the Manayunk Bridge has finally found funding, nearly two years after the walking path first opened to the public in October 2015.

The project is currently at its start, with construction expected to begin in the fall of 2018 and wrap up the following spring. Currently, the organizations involved — including the Philadelphia and Lower Merion parks and recreation departments, SEPTA, PECO, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Manayunk Development Corp. and various state departments — are working on planning and design for the project. This portion of the project is expected to wrap up about a year from now, in the summer or early fall of 2018.

According to Jeff Riegner, one of the project’s planners working with Whitman, Requardt & Associates, funding for the bridge’s lighting was obtained last year, and those involved began the lengthy planning process in early 2017.

“There are a number of different options under consideration,” Riegner said of the lighting design.

Ultimately, planners are looking at four different types of lights to be installed throughout the bridge, including two central fixtures to allow community members to spend time with friends and family on the bridge, as opposed to using it exclusively for transportation.

While the project has a number of goals, Riegner indicated, “When we did our initial outreach, it became really clear that members of the public were looking for a premier public space.”

As a result, that’s one of the primary goals of the lighting project: to make the Manayunk Bridge somewhere members of the community can spend time during the summer. Riegner indicated in addition to installing light fixtures throughout the bridge, planners are looking into the installation of benches and chairs that would allow people to spend more time on the bridge itself.

Additionally, planners said they hope adding lighting will extend the bridge’s hours, allowing day-trippers to walk to and from Manayunk over the course of a day, enjoying everything the town has to offer later into the evening. Without the lighting, the bridge currently closes at sunset and reopens in the morning. Specifically, the gate closes at 6 p.m. from November through March and 9 p.m. from April through October; it opens at 8 a.m. year-round.

While Riegner said the specifics still need to be worked out between Philadelphia’s and Lower Merion’s parks and recreation departments, “it’s everyone’s goal to keep the gates open 24/7” once lighting has been fully installed.

He said of the bridge, “It’s not just a form of transportation to get from one side to the other. The views are tremendous, and it’s a really neat space to spend time. We wanted to make sure there’s an opportunity for people to spend time enjoying that.”

In addition to the lighting that is central to this project, planners are also considering security cameras to be placed throughout the trail, as well as park amenities such as benches and chairs, signage and planters.

While it’s taken a couple of years to secure the funding necessary to begin this project, installing lighting throughout Manayunk Bridge was always the goal.

“The big issues that lighting wasn’t put in initially was funding, because the budget for the original trail project was more than everyone expected due to the condition of the bridge and needing to rebuild several structural options,” said Riegner, who was involved in refurbishing the bridge in 2015.

Ultimately, the project is being funded by a variety of organizations, including the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, the Manayunk Development Corp., the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC),and PennDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which is federally funded. Specifically, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Manayunk Development Corp. are providing funding for design, while $600,000 has been provided by the DVRPC and TAP for construction.

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