Toward the end of spring, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) opened their public comment period for the Draft FY2023 TIP for Pennsylvania which is a critical funding opportunity for the Circuit Trails and bicycle/pedestrian projects. The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is the regionally agreed upon list of priority transportation projects over a four-year period, as required by federal law. The TIP document contains a multi-modal list of all projects that intend to use federal funds, along with all non-federally funded projects that are regionally significant, with estimated costs and schedules. It is updated every two years and provides an important opportunity to submit public comments on policies, individual projects and what the region spends federal transportation dollars on. Once a project has been programmed into the TIP, it is prioritized for federal transportation spending and greatly accelerates its development process.

On May 26th, the day before the public comment period opened, our Executive Director, Sarah Clark Stuart presented to the DVRPC Board on the importance of programming Circuit projects into the TIP to ensure that DVRPC meets their commitment to the Circuit Coalition’s goal of 500 miles by 2025 that is stated in the Connections 2050 long-range plan. 

Thanks to our advocates, over 460 comments were submitted for the Draft FY23 TIP for PA. Our action alert included the following comments addressed to the DVRPC Board:

  • I would like to thank the DVRPC Board for programming the 118034 | Spring Garden Connector – Phase 1 into the FY23-24 PA TIP for design and engineering. 
  • I encourage the DVRPC Board to increase the level of programmed bike and pedestrian projects by approximately $60 million to reach $220 million over four years, which is the level recommended by the Connections 2050 Long-Range Plan.
  • I ask the Board to program these four Circuit Trails projects into the TIP to ensure they receive the necessary funding to accelerate their development. 
    1. The 2.53 miles of the Liberty Bell Trail from Fairview Ave to Veterans Park in Bucks County.
    2. The 8.60 miles of the Chester Valley Trail Extension to Downingtown in Chester County.
    3. The 1.88 miles of the East Coast Greenway in the City of Chester along SR 291 in Delaware County.
    4. The 2.20 miles of the Germantown Pike Crossing along the Cross County Trail in Montgomery County.
  • I ask the Board to commit a greater percentage of funds available for Circuit Trails projects in the TIP so that more Circuit Trails projects can be programmed, helping to reach the goal of completing 500 miles of trails by 2025.

Following the public comment period, on July 28th, we joined the DVRPC Board Meeting with staff who presented a program overview, comments received during the public comment period, and an update to the TIP prior to requesting the DVRPC Board to adopt the recommended changes. Unfortunately, the comments that were submitted by our advocates were not addressed for the Draft FY23 TIP for PA. The DVRPC staff acknowledged that our ask to program more Circuit Trails projects into the TIP was not included in the list of recommendations in the updated TIP for PA. DVRPC staff went over their plan at the beginning of 2022 involving the removal of several projects from the TIP due to scarce funding resources. Plans were changed once the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) became an available funding resource for the region’s transportation projects.

So what was programmed into the FY23 TIP for PA? The list of programmed projects shown below were pulled from DVRPC’s news post.

Programmed funds include $2.2 billion for projects primarily addressing the non-Interstate Highway System, and over $1.3 billion for projects addressing the Interstate Management Program, resulting in an overall four-year total for the Highway Program of over $3.5 billion. Additionally, there is a Transit Program for SEPTA, PART, and PennDOT’s Bureau of Public Transit (BPT) that totals $3.9 billion.

 

Funding for the DVRPC Regional Highway Program and Transit Program in the FY2023 TIP is the highest in recent memory, primarily due to the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Twelve new highway funded projects, at an estimated cost of $91.5 million, and 36 new bridge projects, at an estimated cost of $256.3 million, were added. Nearly all of the 12 new highway funded projects focus on safety and mobility improvements, including roundabouts, multi-use trails, and complete streets projects. Federal transit funding has increased by around $100 million per year, thanks to the IIJA. 

We are disappointed that our request for more miles of Circuit Trails and bike/ped projects did not make it into the TIP for Pennsylvania this round, but we will continue to push for these projects to receive their fair share of federal funding. We can’t thank those of you enough for taking action and submitted your comments to the DVRPC Board. While this is a disappointing outcome, the Board acknowledged the request for more Circuit Trails to be programmed for funding and encouraged trail advocates to keep pushing for more trails projects into future Transportation Improvement Programs.

 

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