After months of indecision, planners of a new Scudder Falls toll bridge said Tuesday that the massive span would include a bicycle-pedestrian path.

The $310 million, 180-foot-wide replacement bridge - which will carry I-95 between Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County, and Ewing Township, Mercer County - is to have nine lanes for auto and truck traffic (up from the current four), two 14-foot-wide dedicated lanes for buses, and two 12-foot-wide shoulders.

But the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission was not sure it could afford a 10-foot-wide bike path that would cost $18 million.

Acknowledging earlier concerns about "cost issues," commission executive director Frank G. McCartney said planners were "able to work through these issues and will incorporate the path into the overall bridge-replacement project."

McCartney said the walkway was "easily the topic that received the most comments from the public." Of 290 written comments about the bridge project, 191 were in support of the walkway and five were opposed, with the rest about other aspects of the span, said commission spokesman Pete Peterson.

Bicycle groups lobbied for the path, and John Boyle, advocacy director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, said Tuesday that he was "ecstatic" about the decision.

"This would connect a regional trail network, with this bridge almost at the center of the network," Boyle said.

The walkway would provide access to canal towpaths on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the river. It would give bicyclists and walkers the only river crossing in a seven-mile stretch between Washington Crossing State Park and the Calhoun Street Bridge from Trenton to Morrisville.

The walkway would descend to the Pennsylvania side at Woodside Road, with a sidewalk along Woodside Road to connect to the Delaware Canal towpath. On the New Jersey side, the walkway would land on the west side of Route 29 and connect to the Scudder Falls Recreation Area and the Delaware and Raritan Canal.

Some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club of New Jersey, oppose the entire bridge project as too big, too costly, and likely to increase pollution and sprawl. They noted the new bridge would be twice as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The new Scudder Falls Bridge actually would be two separate structures: a five-lane northbound bridge to replace the current span, and a four-lane southbound bridge next to it.

Associated roadwork would extend for 4.4 miles along I-95, from Route 332 in Bucks County to Bear Tavern Road in Mercer County.

The work would include widening I-95 by adding a lane in each direction in the existing median. Existing ramps would be reconfigured on both sides of the river, with roundabouts built where New Jersey Route 29 intersects I-95.

There is no toll on the current Scudder Falls Bridge, but the new span will be a toll bridge, according to a plan approved in January by the New Hope-based bridge commission. No toll rate was set, but it is likely the toll will be similar to the charges on the commission's seven other toll bridges over the Delaware (including bridges on U.S. 1, I-78, and I-80).

There, the base toll for cars is 75 cents.

The plan for the new bridge calls for a "cashless" toll system, with motorists using E-ZPass transponders to pay their tolls. Motorists without E-ZPass would be billed by mail, based on photographs of their license plates snapped by cameras mounted on the bridge.

The current Scudder Falls Bridge, built in 1959, carries about 58,400 vehicles each weekday. The bridge commission estimates traffic will increase 35 percent, to 77,500 vehicles, by 2030.

Bridge by Frank Stewart

For more information on the plan, go to http://scudderfallsbridge.comEndText