In late November, PECO sent an email message to a number of counties and townships who are engaged in designing and building Circuit trail projects. Up to recently, PECO has allowed trails to be constructed within PECO “rights of way” (ROW)—property that it owns for power lines—and consequently 15 miles of trails exist on PECO property. But, in the past year, it has come to our attention that leases between PECO and trail sponsors have become difficult to negotiate, and this email announcement brings out into to the open why.
The email from PECO stated: “Due to changes in the regulatory environment as well as increasing demand on the Bulk Electric System , it will be difficult moving forward for PECO to grant permission to utilize its Rights-of-Way for trails and other secondary uses. These Rights-of-Way corridors are critical to allow the safe transmission of electric energy across and within our system, and act as the real estate backbone to the transmission distribution system. In the coming years, we will have the need to expand and upgrade the transmission infrastructure to meet growing customer needs. While we recognize the important role trails play in enhancing the quality of life for the communities we serve, we must also recognize our core responsibility is to deliver safe and reliable electricity. We ask that you look for alternative locations to place trails.”
This announcement is regionally significant for many reasons, but the most important is that it threatens the future of approximately 40 miles of Circuit trails in the five SE PA counties that have been planned but not yet designed or built. In many cases, alternatives to PECO’s corridors don’t exist and when feasible, may involve complicated property owner negotiations or alternatively, on-road alignments that don’t meet Circuit Trails design standards for safe use by families including children, seniors, and folks with disabilities. The Bicycle Coalition and the Circuit Trails Coalition have asked for a meeting with PECO officials that is now scheduled for mid-January. Stay tuned.