Part of our job is to demonstrate the widespread public support for better trails in our region. We can present all sorts of funding plans and trail route studies, but it is loud public exclamations of support that make things happen. So a big thank you to the 237 people who rallied to our call for comment on increasing regional funding for the Circuit.
Late last month the Circuit Coalition asked our supporters to submit comments on the draft Pennsylvania Transportation Improvement Program (2015-2018) or TIP. The TIP can be thought of as a regional list of capital projects scheduled to be advanced in planning or construction over the next 4 years.
The draft TIP contained funding for nine Circuit trails. On top of that, DVRPC committed an additional $1 million towards the Circuit in year 2018. This dedicated funding, however, is only 0.9% of the total TIP budget of $5 billion dollars. Considering the value and importance of the Circuit to our region, we put out a call to our five-county region for public support to increase the portion of the budget dedicated to trail funding. Our goal is to complete the 700+ mile of the Circuit by 2040, so more funding is needed.
And respond you did! 237 comments were submitted to DVRPC to support more funding for the Circuit. These comments will become part of the public record. The comments came from all five counties and beyond, with more than 100 comments submitted from Philadelphia residents and at least 29 from each suburban county.[1. Compare that response to the 238 comments entered in 2012 from everybody, talking about everything, related to the 2013-2016 TIP.]
Some highlights from the comments:
“Thank you for adding $1 Million towards the Circuit in the 2015-1018 TIP. I support additional regional funding for the Circuit because I constantly use and enjoy the trails PA has to offer. I ride my bike and my girlfriend walks her dog. Please continue to support the circuit!”
“…while there was much argument BEFORE the Perk Trail was built, I have heard NO ONE complain in the last 10 years. It’s simple, beautiful, healthy and now a landmark in the area. It connects people and communities more than a wider highway or a new drug store ever will.”
“Thank you for adding $1 Million towards the Circuit in the 2015-1018 TIP. I support additional regional funding for the Circuit because:
- Supports businesses like mine along the trail
- Community uses it for exercise.
- Transportation route. Easier to bike into some communities than to drive and pay for parking.
- Access to BEAUTIFUL scenery that will otherwise be lost due to lack of access and maintenance.
- Provide volunteer opportunities for youth in the community.
- Provide safe routes for non-profit organizations to host fundraising events.
- Open up areas to river access, for boating and fishing. Also to game lands for hunting.”
What Comes Next
The next step for the TIP process is for the Regional Technical Committee to review the comments from the public, respond, and quite possibly make changes. The DVRPC Board will vote on and most likely finalize the TIP in September.
In 2015 New Jersey will be renewing its TIP process and the Circuit Coalition hopes that the New Jersey Counties and NJ Department of Transportation follow Pennsylvania’s lead and dedicate more money to the Circuit. Much of what develops next year will depend on the state’s ability to deal with a forecasted transportation funding shortfall and the will of Congress. Pennsylvania’s new transportation authorization can serve as a model to maintain transportation funding and expand opportunities to build bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.