Biking enthusiasts and advocates had something to celebrate Wednesday afternoon: groundbreaking for the final leg of the Industrial Track Trail connecting the Wilmington Riverfront to Old New Castle.
Construction will start mid-month on the approximately six-mile segment of the East Coast Greenway connecting the Wilmington Riverwalk with Old New Castle. It’s expected to open in the summer of 2018.
The trail will bear Gov. Jack Markell’s name in recognition of his efforts to bolster the state’s trail system. It is being touted as the “crown jewel” in Delaware’s trail system.
“We put so much of the burden for whether we’re a healthy community on the healthcare system, and we need to put more of the burden on each other and our ability to get outside and exercise," Markell said.
Under Markell's administration, the First State’s biker friendliness ranking has climbed from 18th in the nation in 2011 to third last year.“I really, obviously am incredibly excited about this because I know what it represents in terms of economic development, in terms of exercise, in terms of the health of our people," Markell said.
Over 80% of the anticipated $21.1 million cost of the trail will be covered by funds from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program. The rest will be paid for by the state.
DNREC Secretary David Small said the project qualified for federal dollars because it will be multi-modal in nature.
“Especially here in Delaware and in many, many other states, transportation is our largest categorical source of air emissions that cause ozone problems and other issues in terms of health and environmental impact," Small said.
Small said that in an assessment of statewide recreational needs completed each year, there’s been no close second to projects relating to linear roads for hiking, biking, running and other purposes.
The project includes construction of a bridge over the Christina River and a boardwalk over parts of the Peterson Wildlife area. Small said the boardwalk will be suspended five to six feet above the wetlands to avoid disturbing them.