With $10 million now in hand from Montgomery County and an additional $8 million in federal, state, and local grants, a coalition of hiking, running, and biking advocates is hailing a plan to build or improve on a network of trails, one of which will provide an almost unbroken path from Exton to Center City.
The $18 million will go toward seven projects that are part of the Circuit Trails of Greater Philadelphia, envisioned as an 800-mile regional network in nine counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Central and Southern New Jersey.
About 340 miles of trails already built are some of the region’s most used: Schuylkill River, Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, Manayunk Bridge, Cooper River, Pennypack, and Chester Valley.
The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners included the $10 million in its 2020 budget, approved Dec. 12. County officials could not be reached Friday or Monday for comment.
“We are thrilled to see this funding commitment from Montgomery County in support of such regionally significant trail projects,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition. “Specifically, this funding allows us to move critical in-progress trails closer to completion."
Patrick Starr, vice chair of the coalition, called the county’s action “the latest, greatest commitment of county funds .... that will help us achieve 500 miles by 2025.” He said bicyclists could begin commuting to places they previously found inaccessible because of busy roads and other dangers.
Trail projects due to receive funds include:
A four-mile extension of the Chester Valley Trail that would essentially connect it to the Schuylkill River Trail.
A feasibility study to extend the Wissahickon Trail from Forbidden Drive to Morris Arboretum.
Three miles of additional paths for the Erdenheim Farm, Cross County, and Wissahickon Trails.
Just under a mile of new path for the Pennypack Trail.
Designing a new section of the Schuylkill River Trail from Industrial Highway to Route 422.
Designing a Trail Junction Center in Norristown.
A feasibility study for a Cross County Trail from Germantown Pike to Joshua Road.
Starr said he’s particularly enthused about the extension of the Chester Valley Trail. When complete, with the exception of a minor break, it will provide a 34.5-mile path from Exton, Chester County, to King of Prussia, Montgomery County, and through to Center City.
“This connection really brings about a lot of continuity,” Starr said. “That’s really big for us. In any transportation system, when you improve connectivity, you have an exponential increase in the amount of use.”