Kennett Bikeway nearing completion
The nearly-completed Kennett Bikeway.
By Richard L. Gaw
What began eight years ago as a vision to tie scenic Route 52 and Longwood Gardens together is about to become a reality.
The 1.6-mile stretch of Route 52, known and identified now as the Kennett Bikeway Project, is in its final phase of construction and is expected to be completed in August. Begun last fall, the project extends the entire length of the township's boundaries along Route 52, from the Fairville Road area to the intersection of Kennett Pike and the Baltimore Pike. It includes the addition of a five-foot shoulder area beside both northbound and southbound lanes, a bike/walking path, and improved landscaping that will further beautify this historic byway.
Kennett Bikeway Project co-chairman John Haedrick said the construction on the project is nearly complete. Once it is finished, an inspection of the work to confirm that it is cmplete will be conducted by Highway Materials, the contractor of the project, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) – from which a punch-list set of projects may or may not be needed to finish. To date, Haedrick said that the project has remained within its original $882,000 budget.
The byway will serve as an important link in the overall beautification of Route 52, one that not only connects Downtown Wilmington with Longwood Gardens, but also encompasses a Figure 8 loop of the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway that winds its way through seven townships in southeastern Pennsylvania, from Kennett and Pennsbury Townships to as far north to the Marshallton area. The Kennett Bikeway is part of the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway Commission, made up of representatives from Pennsbury, Pocopson, East Bradford and Chadds Ford townships.
"It fulfills the beginning step of what we're trying to achieve, and that's linking the bicycle facilities of Delaware to Longwood Gardens and beyond, which are in concert with some of the goals of the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway," Haedrick said. "This has gotten the attention of bicyclists in the area, and it gives them a longer stretch in which to ride their bikes along a scenic byway."
Although the formal beginnings of Kennett Township's involvement in beautifying its portion of Route 52 began in 2005, the actual tendrils date back to the early 2000s, when grass roots organizations like Delaware Greenways called for improvements to Route 52 that included widened shoulder lanes and beautification projects.
In 2005, the Kennett Pike was designated as a scenic byway, which opened the doors for the township to apply for and receive grants, which included a $925,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration for this project – 80 percent from the federal government and 20 percent of the cost coming from the township.
In 2008, Haedrick and former Kennett Township Supervisor Tom Nale began working with Tom Committa, a Chester County-based landscape planner, to create a concept development study that included ideas about potential landscaping improvement areas, as well as where the preservation of historic stone walls and exposing rock outcroppings could be made along the 1.6-mile stretch. Following the planning process, one done in consultation with PennDOT and Urban Engineers, a full-service consulting and engineering firm in Philadelphia, several layers of renderings and drawings were made that paved the way for the project to begin.
A dedication of the Kennett Bikeway is scheduled for the fall.