The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), our local metropolitan planning organization that distributes regional transportation funding, has announced a 30-day public comment period for receiving public feedback on the draft New Jersey Transportation Improvement Program (NJTIP) Fiscal Year 2018-2021. The NJTIP is a regional transportation capital budget and provides details on how federal and state funding will be spent on different transportation projects –trail projects that meet certain criteria are eligible for funding. The deadline for submitting comments is 5 PM on Thursday, September 14.
In 2011, the William Penn Foundation made a generous grant to the DVPRC to create a Regional Trails Fund program, which in turn made grants to fund the design phase of many Circuit trail projects. Through this program, a number of Circuit trail projects in Mercer, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties received over $3 million for study and design.
By our calculations, nearly $17 million is needed to build 10 New Jersey Circuit trails that are in a pipeline of projects (including the six that received planning/design/engineering grants from the Regional Trails Fund Program). In order for these trails to be built–and the philanthropic dollars already invested in these trails is adequately leveraged–it is critical that New Jersey counties are able to secure federal, state and local funding.
The DVRPC Board stated in July (through a public response to a Circuit Coalition Board comment) and staff reiterated just this week that $1 million would be allocated to the competitive Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) for the construction of CMAQ eligible Circuit Trails. While we applaud this decision, we note that $1M does not significantly close the nearly $17 M gap in funding that currently exists.
In order to ensure that these ten New Jersey Circuit Trails segments do get constructed, the Circuit Coalition thinks that DVRPC can do more to guarantee that the necessary funding will be made available. As such, the Coalition is specifically requesting that the following action be taken:
- DVRPC should dedicate funding as a down payment to build some of the ten trails that need construction funding. DVRPC can do this by creating a “line item” in the NJTIP that can be used to draw down funds as trails advance through the planning, design, engineering, and construction process. A Circuit TIP line item is critical because it will ensure construction funding is available from a dedicated, accountable source. In 2015, the five Pennsylvania counties of the DVRPC Board did this when it amended the Pennsylvania 2017-2020 TIP to include a line item for set-aside construction funding for Circuit Trails when the trails finish planning and design. (PA TIP FY2017 MPMS 105291, page 333)
- Mercer, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties should commit $4 Million in federal funding at their discretion toward the Circuit line item as a down payment to build the existing ten trail segments that need funding. The amount of $4 Million–$1 million per county– is comparable to the amount dedicated by the five Pennsylvania counties in 2015.
In 2015, DVRPC received 126 public comments in support of dedicated Circuit funding on the New Jersey 2016-2019 NJTIP. Despite this support, no action was taken and the NJTIP did not include dedicated funding for the Circuit Trails.
With support from the Circuit Coalition and people who use and love trails in New Jersey, an opportunity exists through the 2018-2021 NJTIP to have DVRPC commit a stable source of funding that is needed to close the nearly $17 million funding gap for these trail projects.
There are two ways to let DVRPC know that you want a Circuit line item added to the TIP:
- Attend the public meeting about the NJTIP on September 6 from 6-8 PM at the Collingswood Community Center in Camden County. While registering is not required, you are encouraged to RSVP by contacting 215-592-1800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Driving, Bike and Transit Directions (Collingswood Senior Community Center is a short walk from PATCO’s Collingswood Station.)
- Let your County elected officials know that you want them to dedicate $4M to construct Circuit Trails in New Jersey
Light blue segments indicate projects that have funding in place for construction. Dark blue segments on this map represent projects that require additional funding for construction.