Looking north towards Wilmington from near New Castle on the Wilmington – New Castle Greenway
The Wilmington-New Castle Greenway (also known as the “Industrial Track” because it follows an old railroad right-of-way) will, when complete, be a six-mile long “bicycle highway” connecting the cities of Wilmington and New Castle. It is already mostly done. The first phase, running from New Castle to Route 295, was built with American Recovery Act (“stimulus”) funds in 2011. The second phase, running from Route 295 to the Christina river, was built by New Castle County last year. The remaining gap (known as “Phase 3”) is from the Christina river to the Wilmington Riverfront. By closing this gap Delaware will complete a safe, direct, paved, flat and nearly uninterrupted non-motorized six-mile travel route between the Wilmington Riverfront and New Castle. In six miles, there will be just one – one! – at-grade road crossing. A really fast cyclist on this highway will be able to travel between Wilmington and New Castle in as little as 15 minutes. Even an average cyclist (12 mph) will be able to make the trip in less than a half hour.
Can you imagine what it would be like if the Riverwalk-Market Street area’s vibrant mix of businesses, residences and thriving art scene was connected by a safe, easily navigable six mile trail to New Castle? And you’re part of it: you (and your whole family) can bike safely and comfortably from Wilmington to dine in historic Olde New Castle at a colonial restaurant and tavern quicker than if you took a car. After dinner, you take a leisurely roll along the river front trail in Battery Park before heading home. Or, the other way, if you live in the New Castle area, you can now take your kids and bike to a Blue Rocks game or a movie at the Riverfront’s new IMAX movie theater.
What are we waiting for, right?
Well, one important thing we have been waiting for is a decision about the Phase 3 “alignment”: the route that the greenway should take to connect Phase 2 and the Riverfront. After the WILMAPCO Council voted on June 15, 2010 to prioritize Phase 3 of the Wilmington – New Castle Greenway as the most important bike/ped project in all of New Castle County, DelDOT hired an engineering consultant to to analyze the Phase 3 route options. That study has, finally, been published and a route – the “red” route – recommended:
The “red route” for Phase 3 of the Wilmington-New Castle Greenway
Though we never anticipated that the route study would take 2 years (!) to complete, we now have a recommended route and an initial cost estimate. We also, due to some notable leadership from DNREC, DelDOT, Governor Markell, the General Assembly and WILMAPCO (and cyclists!), have a budget to now move Phase 3 to construction.
Finishing the Wilmington – New Castle Greenway is one of those unusual opportunities in public life that serve multiple public priorities simultaneously. This project will improve the health of people who use it to walk and bicycle, increase tourism at the Riverfront and New Castle, give a boost to economic development, reduce congestion, lower emissions, provide recreational opportunities and improve quality of life for Delawareans. So let’s get it done.
James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware.