Advocates for bicyclists and pedestrians have launched a last-minute effort to restore funding for a proposed ramp to the Ben Franklin Bridge walkway.
Plans for a $3.2 million ramp on the Camden side of the bridge were not included in the 2012 capital budget approved Wednesday by the Delaware River Port Authority finance committee.
The full DRPA board will vote on the budget Wednesday.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia on Friday asked the DRPA board to restore the money and launched an online petition drive to gather signatures of supporters of the ramp.
In June 2010, DRPA chief executive John Matheussen said the agency would accelerate plans for the walkway and build it in 2012.
On Friday, responding to a letter from the coalition, DRPA spokesman Tim Ireland issued a statement: "The DRPA finance committee recognizes the importance of the south walkway bicycle and pedestrian ramp and voted on Wednesday to approve a 2012 capital budget that defers the ramp's construction."
The 86-year-old bridge has an elevated Philadelphia-to-Camden walkway on each side of the structure. The south walkway is the most used; the north side is open only when the south walkway must be closed for bridge maintenance.
At the Philadelphia end of the bridge, pedestrians and bicyclists can walk up gradually sloping ramps. The New Jersey side, though, is tougher: The south walkway ends in a steep staircase of 39 steps, and the north walkway has a narrow 42-inch-wide "cattle chute" leading to stairs.
Without a ramp, the bridge walkways remain inaccessible to the handicapped, the coalition said in its letter Friday. It also noted the ramp was going to provide a link to a regional network of 10 bike and pedestrian paths being built with $6 million in federal stimulus funds.
"As long as the DRPA continues to refuse to fund the ramp, it is denying safe and accessible transportation to members of the public who want to bike or walk across the Delaware River," the coalition wrote.
On its website, the coalition urged supporters to sign an online petition and attend the DRPA board's 9 a.m. Wednesday meeting.