Decades after it was first proposed, Delaware has signed a contract with a local construction firm to complete the long-awaited Wilmington-New Castle Greenway.
It’s a project of superlatives: It’s the state’s biggest-ever cycling network improvement project. And it will include a football-field long bike bridge spanning the Christina River which will be, by far, the longest bike bridge ever built in Delaware.
When construction wraps up in 2018, the people of Delaware will gain a remarkable new asset: a safe, direct, paved, flat and nearly uninterrupted non-motorized seven-mile travel route between the Wilmington Riverfront and downtown New Castle. The Wilmington Riverfront and Market street, with its many businesses, restaurants, residences, train station, movie theater, minor league baseball stadium and art scene will be safely and easily accessible by cyclists – of every age and ability – from the suburban communities to the south of Wilmington and from New Castle. Going in the other direction, the historic colonial capitol of Delaware, now the headquarters of Delaware’s only national historical park, will be similarly accessible to people cycling from Wilmington.
The project will also fix the missing link that will enable a new (and much better) route in Delaware for the East Coast Greenway (a developing 3,000 miles long, urban trail linking Calais, Maine, at the Canadian border, with Key West, Florida).
First proposed way back in the 1990s, Delawareans have been waiting for the Wilmington-New Castle Greenway for a long time. Bike Delaware wrote its very first article on the project in 2010. In 2011, eight civic and business groups came together in a joint call for the project to move forward.
In 2011, New Castle County had been active with the project but any prospect for completing the final – and most expensive – phase seemed remote. But in May of 2011 the project received a huge boost when the Delaware General Assembly unanimously passed Walkable Bikeable Delaware, which put the state’s legislature on record calling for the creation of
“multi-use paths for pedestrian and bicycle user travel within and between cities and towns in Delaware on independent right-of-way outside of the right-of-way of existing roadways;”
Just weeks after the passage of this policy statement by the Delaware General Assembly, the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council announced improved revenue projections for the state budget. Governor Jack Markell seized on the opportunity presented by the combination of the state’s improving budget picture and the legislature’s passage of Walkable Bikeable Delaware to propose unprecedented new state investments in cycling and trails: $2 million in new funding to complete the Castle Trail (extending from Delaware City to Chesapeake City along the C&D Canal) and $5 million in new funding for state bike routes. And then in October of 2011 he followed up with the announcement of the First State Trails and Pathways Initiative, which included the Wilmington-New Castle Greenway.
Although the contract to finish the Wilmington-New Castle Greenway is a state contract, nearly all of the money for this project is being provided by the U.S. through the federal government’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, with the cooperation and support of WILMAPCO (the Metropolitan Planning Organization covering New Castle County) and the Federal Highway Administration.