Trenton’s bridge over Parkside Avenue, officially known as Bridge #180.1, reopened yesterday to the public.

The old bridge was a concrete-encased steel girder bridge’ carrying above it an abandoned railroad trail and pedestrian route. The structure was in poor condition, extremely deteriorated and posed a hazard due to the potential of falling concrete debris. Neighbors described it as “dangerous” and an “eyesore in the community.” The bridge is located between Oak Lane and Oakland Street.

“With this project, Mercer County is taking the long view with an eye toward the future, and in this case it is to preserve mobility options for a disadvantaged community,” said Mr. Hughes, who as a child lived not far from the project site.  “Our hope is that with our partners in Trenton, we will see development of this rail trail, and replacing this structure is our commitment to that future.”

Attending the ribbon cutting with County Executive Hughes and Mayor Gusciora were County Commissioners Lucylle Walter, Sam Frisby and Terrance Stokes, Deputy County Administrator Aaron T. Watson, Maria Richardson, Director, City of Trenton office on Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture, Randy Baum, project landscape architect, community member Mary Horne, a longtime proponent of the project, County Engineer Basit “Sunny” Muzaffar, Supervising Engineer Joseph Vena and the team from Rencor Inc.

As part of the bridge replacement, Mercer County groomed a section of the trail, added trees to the embankments and removed trash and downed trees. “The City of Trenton is appreciative of the county’s efforts, and we envision the walking trail as a way for people to get to our recreation centers and beyond,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora.

The replacement bridge is a single span structure supported on full height concrete abutments. The superstructure consists of precast prestressed beams with a composite reinforced concrete deck. The substructure is full-height reinforced concrete abutments founded on cast-in-place spread footings. The new structure is designed to identically match the aesthetics of the existing structure while being upgraded to meet current NJDOT standards.

The pedestrian bridge is intended to carry a multipurpose trail on the right of way of the abandoned CSX “Trenton Cutoff,” which formerly connected the Northeast Corridor Line to the West Trenton Line.

Through inspection of aerial photos, county planners know the trail sees considerable existing use of the alignment as a footpath, from Edgemere Avenue, near Trenton’s West Ward Senior and Recreation Centers on Prospect Street, westward to commercial nodes on Parkside and Maple Avenues, including across the existing bridge. With most cross streets dead-ended at the former railroad, the footpath provides a significant local travel-way to access the wider roadway network and commercial resources.

The County has mapped out the extent of a feasible, uninterrupted alignment that could be built in the near future, and with the cooperation of the Christina Seix Academy, which purchased part of the right of way to expand its campus, the trail could continue to the Ewing Town Center development.

This trail alignment is included in the City of Trenton’s Master Plan https://www.trenton250.org/actions/rails-to-trails-projects as the “Delaware and Bound Brook Rail Trail,” and in 2017, the Trenton City Council formally requested that Mercer County replace the abandoned rail bridge with a pedestrian facility (Resolution #17-533) to support this off-street bicycle and pedestrian connection.  Mercer County Planning Department staff researched right-of-way ownership to demonstrate the feasibility of constructing this alignment.