Breakfast on the Circuit, PennDOT Connects and more in Chester County

by | November 4, 2021 | News, Biking the Region, The Circuit | 0 comments

Last week, we held our first-ever update on the Circuit Trails and bike & pedestrian policy and infrastructure over breakfast in Chester County.

We were joined by staff from the Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC), Transportation Management Agency of Chester County (TMACC), Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Engineering District 6 (PennDOT), and Friends of the Chester Valley Trail who presented on these topics.

If you missed our event, see below for a full recap and access to their presentations that covered the various projects and policies happening in Chester, Montgomery and extending into Lancaster County.

Kicking off the event was Rachael Griffith, the Senior Trails and Open Space Planner with CCPC. Her presentation reviewed the project status of the Circuit Trails in Chester, specifically, the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) and the Chester Valley Trail (CVT). Notable progress has been made along the SRT that many are already riding daily.

This includes the existing Route 29 bridge that was retrofitted with a multi-use side path making the connection from Phoenixville to Mont Clare in Montgomery County, 2.1 miles of paved trail from the bridge to Township Line Rd and the 5.6 miles of crushed stone trail bringing users to Parker Ford. The 5.6 mile segment has made quick progress and was recently paved as a part of the County’s SRT Phase II Project this year.

Segments that are under construction include the last gap in the SRT from Philadelphia to Reading. Construction began in 2020 and will add approximately 4 miles of new trail to the network. Additionally, a newly established trailhead and parking lot at Frick’s Lock Village is currently being constructed with an anticipated completion date for both projects sometime in the Spring of next year.

With 300,000 users per year, the CVT is the second most used trail on the Circuit after the SRT. The trail currently extends from King of Prussia to Exton and is measured at 14 miles of continuous trail. Updates along the CVT include the CVT Phase 4a segment which is out to bid soon with construction expected to begin later this year.

This 1-mile segment represents the end of the Chester County’s right of way along the Chester Valley railroad corridor. The County’s vision for the CVT is a cross-county trail that will extend into Lancaster County’s Enola Low Grade Trail and the Northwest Lancaster River Trail that connects to Harrisburg.

The CVT West study aims to make this connection a reality by connecting the gap between the CVT in Downingtown. The County is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to designate a “Statewide Major Greenway.”

Because the County’s right of way ends at the 30 bypass, CCPC is studying a way to extend the trail farther west to connect to the borough of Downingtown and other trails on the Circuit including the Struble and East Branch Brandywine Trails. The planning commission has been working with PennDOT for several years to acquire the right of way from Norfolk Southern to transform the P&T Corridor into the high-quality Circuit standard. This negotiation continues to be an important matter that we are constantly looking for an update on. Above are renderings of what the trail may look like when right of way is acquired and CCPC can bring their vision to life.

See the full presentation here.

Following these trail updates was an overview on the highly anticipated Devault Trail with their presentation by Tim Phelps, Executive Director and John Meisel, Manager of Transportation Operations and Planning. This trail will connect trail users from the SRT to the CVT which measures roughly 9 miles. This much needed north/south connection led by TMACC is actively working to move this trail forward by conducting its feasibility study, engaging with the local townships and laying the groundwork to ensure that trail design, maintenance and management are identified by May 2022. The Bicycle Coalition is involved in this process and continues to support TMACC who are leading this effort. While we don’t have an exact date as to when the trail will be complete, the estimated timeline is projected 6 years from now if everything goes smoothly. For contact information and more details see their presentation here.

Earlier this year, you may have joined CCPC at their virtual public meeting where they reviewed the County’s Draft Complete Streets Policy. A presentation was led by Eric Quinn, Transportation Planner with CCPC who reviewed the draft of the policy which aims to develop an integrated and connected multimodal transportation system of Complete Streets that serve the neighborhoods county-wide. Funding for this project came from DCNR and guidelines for the project were in accordance with PA WalkWorks.

A complete streets policy is a crucial strategy today to improve overall health, improve safety of all users and take a much needed step back from continuing to bring auto-centric infrastructure to our region.

The Complete Streets vision is to allow roadways in Chester County to meet the mobility needs of all users and provide for all appropriate modes of transportation with an emphasis on safety, equity and environmental responsibility. An important component to bringing this policy to life is establishing context sensitive solutions that fit within the various landscapes defined by the County’s comprehensive plan.

Design standards to create a multimodal network include bringing more shared roadways, bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks and high quality bus stop design to capture the many ways we choose to reach our location. The CCPC board has adopted the policy and are preparing the final draft for the public by the end of 2021. For more on what the Complete Streets policy covers, see the full presentation here.

Several years ago, the Bicycle Coalition coordinated with bike safety advocates in Chester County and PennDOT District 6 to discuss the idea of building a partnership with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) to identify roads that are good candidates for bike facilities during PennDOT’s regularly scheduled roadway resurfacing maintenance program. T

oday, this program is known as the Bicycle-Friendly Resurfacing Program / PennDOT Connects. Francis Hanney, Senior Manager with PennDOT Engineering in District 6 gave an overview of this program and examples of roads that are good candidates for bike facilities such as bike lanes, sharrows, striped shoulders and crossing treatments.

The project area spans through the PA counties that make up the Greater Philadelphia area and is built into PennDOT’s 5-year resurfacing program. This process begins with the identification of potential state owned corridors to build upon a low-stress network that is led by DVRPC. Areas are reviewed further by the County or Municipality and the Bicycle Coalition before DVRPC takes a deeper dive into the list. The PennDOT Connects program is a well organized and successful program that we hope to one day bring to the NJ side of the region. For the full presentation and examples of how this process works see the full presentation here.

Wrapping the program up, was Mike Broennle, a long-time member of the Bicycle Coalition and bike advocate in his hometown. Mike gave a presentation on a senior’s perspective on trails and low-stress roads throughout the county. Mike is active with Friends of the Chester Valley Trail and works with the Chester County Parks & Preservation staff by bringing ideas and support to their partners. His presentation can be seen here and is worth a look as he has many maps and graphs showing safe routes and providing a perspective of who makes up those who use the trails throughout Chester’s network.

We’d like to thank all of the presenters who made this event possible. Thank you to those of you who came out to learn about the Circuit Trails, bike/ped policies and programs that will make Chester County a safer place for biking and walking.

And lastly, we’d like to thank the staff at Penn State Great Valley for allowing us to host our event in their art gallery and classroom to make our educational program a great learning experience. Looking forward, we plan to bring this event to the NJ counties this winter.

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