Planning Underway to Convert a Train Bridge Connecting Port Covington and Westport into a Pedestrian Bridge

| June 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

A key aspect of the Port Covington Master Plan and the soon-to-be-created Middle Branch Waterfront Master Plan is the idea of turning the Spring Gardens Swing Bridge, which once connected Port Covington and Westport by train, into a pedestrian bridge. This idea is moving forward as the stakeholders in the area, The Port Covington Development Team, South Baltimore Gateway Partnership (SBGP), the City of Baltimore, and the Parks and People Foundation received a grant to begin initial engineering this year.

Westport and Port Covington are currently separated by the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. The Spring Gardens Swing Bridge connects to CSX train tracks in Port Covington. The bridge, which starts in Port Covington in between Swann Park and a Port Covington Development Team property that was once the home of Atlantic Forrest, connects to a 43-acre waterfront parcel in Westport. The parcel is owned by Plank Industries, which is a partner in the Port Covington Development Team.

The walking bridge would not only connect Port Covington to Westport, but would create a five-plus-mile trail loop around the Middle Branch using the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, Middle Branch Park, and Westport. This trail could be enhanced with a new waterfront promenade on the Westport Waterfront parcel and an expansion of the waterfront promenade in Port Covington which already exists at West Covington Park. There is also a $50-million Baltimore City Department of Transportation plan to re-deck the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge with two protected pedestrian lanes.

The Port Covington Development team is working on a 235-acre, multi-decade, $5.5-billion development of Port Covington. It has earmarked $15,337,000 in future Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bond funds for the Spring Gardens Swing Bridge reconstruction.

“We are thrilled to be continuing our extensive work on the Middle Branch Waterfront by advancing design for a bridge between Port Covington and Westport,” said Weller Development Company President and Founding Partner Marc Weller in a statement. Weller Development is leading the development and construction for the Port Covington Development Team.

Weller added, “Connectivity across the Middle Branch has always been an important component of the Port Covington Master Plan. This initiative will not only create an important connection between communities but will serve to enhance the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network by providing access across the Middle Branch Waterfront for all Baltimore residents. We thank our partners including Baltimore City, the Parks and People Foundation, and the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership for their continued efforts on this important project.”

A spokesperson for Plank Industries did not comment on the Westport waterfront parcel or indicate if it is for sale. Plank Industries acquired this site in 2015 in a foreclose auction. No development plans have been revealed for this site. Turner Development was planning a development with 2 million sq. ft. of office space, 300,000 sq. ft.of retail, and 2,000 residential units in the mid-2000s, but the property later fell into foreclosure after some demolition and remediation was done to the site.

SBGP Executive Director Brad Rogers told the Spring Gardens Swing Bridge reconstruction idea has been introduced to various regulatory agencies and said he does not know how long the project will take. SBGP is a nonprofit which manages half of South Baltimore’s casino Local Impact Grants.

SBGP is a large funder of the Middle Branch Waterfront Master Plan which will design “a network of world-class parks, trails, and public recreation opportunities along the Patapsco River’s 11-mile shoreline in South Baltimore.” The plan will work on public space improvements and work with the stakeholders of the private held parcels on the Middle Branch.

One goal of the Middle Branch Waterfront Master Plan is to build a new vehicular bridge over the Middle Branch and covert the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge into a park.

“My hope is that all of these efforts support economic development across the whole area,” said Rogers. “That includes historic neighborhoods attracting new residents and business. We want this plan to weave together all the existing plans already underway. A lot of great stuff is already happening.”

Drone video courtesy of Jeff Kunce

Google Maps screenshot of the Spring Gardens Swing Bridge

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