Landmark Funding Fuels Circuit Trails Expansion

by Katie LaCava, Planning Intern

Photo: Derek Lombardi, DVRPC

June 17, 2024

The DVRPC region will see new trail expansion projects in counties across Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Circuit Trails are a network of multi-use trails that connect the Greater Philadelphia region and provide people walking and biking with access to local waterways, schools, work, parks, businesses, and more. The completed Circuit Trails are expected to be an 800-mile network, about half of which is currently completed and open. The trails are implemented through the collaboration of local and county governments, non-profits, foundations, DOTs, and DVRPC. Over the years, DVRPC’s Regional Trails Program has provided planning assistance and funding to help plan, design, and construct Circuit Trail projects, thanks to financial support from the William Penn Foundation. For over a decade, the region has relied heavily on federal Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside (TASA or TAU) and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds to construct trail projects.

The Draft FY2025 Pennsylvania Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) includes several large, county-led Circuit Trail projects, largely funded by the Carbon Reduction Program (CRP), a new federal formula program created by the IIJA/BIL that provides funding for projects designed to reduce transportation emissions. Over the next four years, more than $50 million of CRP funding is allocated to Circuit Trail projects in the DVRPC-PA region, a significant increase from previous years. Over the twelve years shown in the FY2025 PA TIP, about $120 million of CRP funds are programmed for Circuit Trails and Circuit Trails-related projects. This includes two large corridor projects, the Spring Garden Street Connector in Philadelphia and the PA 291 Complete Streets project in Delaware County that involve significant trail components in addition to safety improvements, stormwater mitigation, and changes to nearby roadways. DVRPC’s Pennsylvania counties led the charge for this unprecedented investment in Circuit Trail projects to create a safe and efficient network for carbon-free travel. 

The DVRPC region will see new trail expansion projects in counties across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including:

Bucks County:

  • The Newtown Rail Trail will be extended from Bristol Road to the Churchville Nature Center, a 1.8-mile stretch, providing a connection to the Pennypack Trail in Montgomery County that leads to the Delaware River Trail and East Coast Greenway. The county was awarded $2.5 million in federal and state grants to fund the Rail Trail, including a Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside (TASA) grant. 

Chester County:

  • The Chester Valley Trail: Phase I project will utilize $6 million of Carbon Reduction Program funding to construct the first phase of a planned seven-mile trail along the alignment of the former Philadelphia and Thorndale Branch (P&T Line) corridor. Eventually this trail will extend through the county to connect several townships and reach other portions of the Schuylkill to Susquehanna Greenway in Lancaster County. This segment of the P&T Line will begin at the trail’s intersection with Ship Road and proceed east to cross the Whitford Bridge and continue over the Downingtown Trestle, extending to near Gallagherville Road. Additional segments listed under the Circuit Line Item have a construction cost estimate of approximately $24 million. Another project, a trail extension that will reach Sidley Road, received $1.85 million of TASA funds to construct. 

Delaware County:

  • State Route 291, a corridor with serious safety concerns for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists, received a $2.5 million federal Reconnecting Communities grant to fund the road’s redesign in the City of Chester. This grant will supplement the new TIP project, PA 291 Complete Streets: Irving Street to Ridley Creek, funding improvements including safety treatments, green infrastructure, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and a new multi-use trail that is part of the East Coast Greenway, a multimodal path that stretches from Maine to Florida. 

Montgomery County:

  • The Cross-County Trail is currently three miles long and intersects the Schuylkill River Trail, ending at the Germantown Pike. The FY2025 PA TIP includes funding for several extensions that will nearly complete the planned 17.5 miles of multi-use trail connecting to the Wissahickon Trail, SEPTA’s Fort Washington Station, the Willow Grove YMCA, and eventually the Power Line Trail, via another project. The project includes a bridge over Germantown Pike for pedestrians and cyclists, and is funded by a mix of CMAQ, CRP, local, and other federal dollars. The trail will eventually end at an intersection with the Pennypack Trail, a completed route that links to many other segments of the Circuit Trails. The programmed sections will also provide access to Fort Washington State Park, University of Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum and Gardens, large shopping centers, the Willow Pointe Apartments, and other amenities. 

City of Philadelphia:

  • The Spring Garden Connector project will apply a complete street design including improvements to traffic signals, lighting and streetscape, ADA-compliant sidewalks, green stormwater infrastructure, bike lanes, and access to bus and subway stations. It will also connect the Schuylkill and Delaware River trails, several Philadelphia neighborhoods and waterfront parks, and complete the Center City section of the East Coast Greenway. It is partially funded by the federal CRP, in addition to local Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) funds, a grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), a William Penn Foundation grant, and city funding including private contributions. 

Burlington County:

  • The Rancocas Creek Greenway currently extends about 1.5 miles from its junction with the Delaware River Heritage Trail along Amico Island and the Rancocas Creek through Pennington Park. Several new trail projects will continue the trail from the park, across a pedestrian bridge over US Route 130 to Rainbow Meadow Park, with a spur to Willingboro Lakes. The completed trail will eventually extend just over thirty miles following Creek Road, stretching through several parks, crossing the creek, connecting to the planned Arney’s Mount Trail and Pemberton Trail, and ending at the Ocean County border. 

Camden County:

  • The Cooper River Bike/Ped Bridge Project is a significant project within the Camden County LINK Trail, a 34-mile multi-use trail extending through 17 NJ municipalities. It will construct a new 12 foot wide steel bridge that will provide safe access for non-motorized travel over the Cooper River, linking two existing segments of the trail. The new bridge will largely complement an additional pedestrian bridge overpass of Route 130 near Cooper River Park, which will provide a safe crossing opportunity over a dangerous and busy highway. Elsewhere along the Cooper River, the replacement of the Kaighn Avenue Bridge will also include multimodal infrastructure to access the Circuit Trails. 

Gloucester County:

  • Several trails have received funding, including the Elephant Swamp Trail and Glassboro-Elk Trail, as well as various complete streets projects. The 6-mile Monroe Township Bike Path will be extended one more mile, to intersect the Glassboro-Elk trail near Rowan University. The Elephant Swamp trail will be improved from its current soft surface to accommodate all users and join the Circuit Trails. 

Mercer County:

  • The Lawrence Hopewell Trail was awarded $1.2 million in competitive CMAQ funding to fund the construction of the Maidenhead Meadows Trail, one segment of four that will complete the 22-mile long route. This section of the trail will pass through Maidenhead Meadows Park, connecting two existing trails and creating a united loop. The Mt. Rose Distillery and Pretty Brook Road segments are programmed in the FY24 NJ TIP, with partial funding from Transportation Enhancements and Transportation Alternatives Projects grants, DVRPC Regional Trails Program Awards, and CMAQ.

This article is part of a series on the Transportation Improvement Program, or "TIP." If you want to learn more about the TIP, check out the informational articles: What is the TIP?How Does a Project Get on the TIP?, and How is the TIP Funded? You can also read related articles on the Draft FY2025 TIP for Pennsylvania, including an overview of the TIP and the regional impact of the IIJA/BIL.

Bicycle & Pedestrian, Environment, Transportation

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