Yes, the holiday weekend is about to start. But, we are so excited about this news that we want to share some details about the Circuit’s recent banner day on June 26th. That morning, the Board members of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission voted unanimously to support the dedication of federal and private dollars toward 11 circuit trail segments in Pennsylvania. It approved a new “line item” for the Pennsylvania Transportation Improvement Program (AKA the PA TIP) that designates $5 million in federal transportation dollars for construction. (The four New Jersey counties are working on their own regional approach to investing in Circuit trails and a decision is expected this fall on how they might modify the NJ TIP.)
Funding for final design and engineering of six of these projects was also approved at the Board meeting. The design grants were awarded through DVRPC’s Regional Trails Program, supported by the William Penn Foundation. The seventh project was previously funded for design through another source. Once the projects are engineered, they can access the $5 million in federal transportation dollars approved by DVRPC for construction. The trail projects being added to the line item include:
- Bridge Street Crossing on the Delaware & Lehigh Canal Towpath, Bucks County
- A segment of the Newtown Branch Trail, Bucks County
- A segment of the Pennypack Trail, Montgomery County
- Chester Valley Trail Extension, Montgomery County
- Pennypack Trail – crossing of State & Rhawn streets, Philadelphia
- Spring Garden Street Greenway, Philadelphia
- Lindbergh Boulevard Side Path at 84th Street, Philadelphia
In addition, DVRPC approved four additional Regional Trails Program grants for Pennsylvania Circuit trails: two for construction and two technical studies.
- A segment of the Chester Valley Trail, Chester County
- A segment of the Schuylkill River Trail north of Route 422, Montgomery County
- A segment of the Frankford Creek Greenway, Philadelphia
- A segment of the Cross County Trail in Plymouth Township, Montgomery County
This vote is the culmination the Circuit Coalition’s “Circuit Commitment” campaign launched in summer 2013. That campaign’s goal was to secure a regional commitment to continued investment in the Circuit so that it could leverage the federal and private dollars that the region has been receiving over the past five years, such as the most recent William Penn $8.6 grant made for the Circuit in late 2014. The Circuit Coalition made the case for a dedicated regional investment by delivering 2000 names on postcards and an online petition of supporters and making visits to county elected officials in February 2014. DVRPC first responded by adding $1 million to the next PA Transportation Alternatives Program for Circuit Projects in June 2014. By establishing this new line item, DVRPC now has established a mechanism to fund multiple Circuit projects. This step reinforces DVRPC’s strong commitment to carry through on one of its 2040 Connections Plan goals, which is to build out the 750 miles of the Circuit by 2040.
DVRPC’s vote was not taken in a vacuum; there is strong public support for the Circuit. In May 2015, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia conducted a public opinion survey across all nine counties of the Delaware Valley and reported the results last week. The survey aimed to gather an understanding of the general population’s awareness of the Circuit and the level of demand for more trails in the region. It was a phone survey to over 1000 households, at least 100 in each of the nine counties.
The survey found high levels of support for trails in the region. Overall, 85 percent support building more trails in their counties. Furthermore, 70 percent were in favor of spending $2 per person in public dollars annually to pay for new miles of trails.
Sixty percent of respondents said they would like to have access to a trail, or more trails within 10 minutes of their homes. Of respondents under the age of 45, that level of support rose to 72 percent.
Thanks to everyone who made this great victory possible; Circuit supporters who signed postcards and the online petition; Circuit Coalition members who held meetings and events and the DVRPC Board members who voted in favor of the line item on June 26th.