New Jersey trails recently got some great news with an announcement by the Department of Transportation (NJDOT) that more than $27 million has been awarded through the state’s Transportation Alternatives Set-Asides (TA Set-Asides) and Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs toward improvements to bicycle and pedestrian safety and connectivity across the state.
“More than $3.6 million was awarded in the form of six walking and bicycling infrastructure grants in the Circuit Trails’ New Jersey footprint!"
Of special note is the impact that this funding will have on the Circuit Trails—Greater Philadelphia's 800-miles-plus planned network of multiuse trails across nine counties, including: Philadelphia, Chester, Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks in Pennsylvania; and Burlington, Gloucester, Camden and Mercer in New Jersey. Of the $27 million TA Set-Asides and SRTS announcement, more than $3.6 million was awarded in the form of six walking and bicycling infrastructure grants in the Circuit Trails’ New Jersey footprint!
And to make things even better: The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) simultaneously announced $600,000 in grants from its Regional Trails Program (RTP) for construction and design of three projects in the Circuit Trails’ region. Awesome, right?
Connecting Camden County by Trail
Included in the TA Set-Asides and SRTS announcement was a $1.22 million grant awarded to Camden County for construction of a key segment of the Atlantic Avenue Trail, which is part of the larger Cross Camden County Trail. An effort led by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and Camden County, the 12-mile Atlantic Avenue Trail segment is located midway between the Delaware River waterfront and the Atlantic County border. Through its work with the Circuit Trails Coalition, RTC worked closely with several local partners—including the Camden County departments of Environmental Affairs and Planning—to secure the grant, which comes from Transportation Alternatives, the largest source of federal funding for trails, walking and biking in the United States.
Also of note is a $175,000 grant awarded via the RTP for the design and engineering of a 0.7-mile segment of the Burlington-Camden Trail, a 10-mile trail that will eventually connect Moorestown with the Delaware riverfront. To date, the DVRPC RTP—with support from the William Penn Foundation—has provided over 100 awards totaling more than $20 million to support “trail developers, counties, municipalities and nonprofit organizations to complete the Circuit,” according to the DVRPC website.
Planned on long-disused New Jersey Transit line, and eventually creating a connection between Pennsauken, Merchantville and Camden, the Burlington-Camden Trail project has been a major priority for RTC, and obtaining the RTP grant is a huge accomplishment for RTC and our local partners—including the Pennsauken Township Committee, the Delaware Gardens Neighborhood Initiative and Urban Promise.
Closing Gaps in the Circuit
About 40% of the Circuit Trails Network is complete already, and these grants will expedite the progress of key spine trails of the network through Camden County. By completing the first phase of the Atlantic Avenue Trail, residents and tourists will be able to experience a taste of how the entire 32-mile trail will benefit local communities, including supporting small businesses and generating positive health outcomes for residents.
The design and engineering project funded through the RTP grant will help walk agencies through the process of a converting a historic bridge—one that hasn’t been used for years—as well as showcase the impactful connections that will result within and between the diverse communities along an old rail corridor.
And of course, these projects are about more than just building trails. They are about leveraging the transportation corridor to build a new, sustainable economy—one that thrives on recreation and tourism—in a region buffeted by cataclysmic changes in the manufacturing industry over the past several decades. The re-envisioning and conversion of the transportation corridors to premier recreation destinations will have a transformative impact—opening the door to tens of millions of dollars per year in tourism spending and other economic development benefits.
Next Steps in New Jersey
RTC extends its gratitude to NJDOT for supporting trails, walking and biking across the state—but note that there is still money to be had, and work to do!
NJDOT is gaining momentum with regard to spending down their Transportation Alternative funding. However, because of a backlog of funds from previous years, there still remains up to $54 million available for alternative transportation infrastructure, such as trails, bike lanes and pedestrian improvements. It is important to spend these dollars down to move critical programs—these funds are vulnerable to being transferred to highway programs at any time, or sent back to the federal government through a rescission if not spent before Sept. 30, 2019!
We Need Your Help
Click here to sign a petition thanking NJDOT for their effort to spend the funding and encouraging them to spend the remaining dollars ahead of the rescission!Sign the Petition