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Montgomery County officials are moving forward with two major trail projects that will make it easier for folks to travel through the county on foot or bicycle.
“It really contributes to the quality of life for our residents, whether it’s in the form of recreation or as a commuting resource,” said Bill Hartman, the county’s trails and open space planning manager.
Montgomery County has seen a surge in trail users since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The county saw 2 million path visitors in 2021, and more than 2.8 million users as of November 2022. It has since been investing in pre-existing and new trails across the county, and making huge strides.
The new Chester Valley Trail extension and the Cross County Trail are pieces of the Circuit Trails Coalition’s plans — aimed to connect Philadelphia, the surrounding suburbs, and parts of New Jersey and Delaware, with 500 miles of trails by 2025.
The Chester Valley Trail extension
Officials plan to open the Chester Valley Trail extension this winter.
The 3.9-mile extension would stretch the existing 14.5-mile Chester Valley Trail, which runs from Exton in Chester County into King of Prussia. The new 3.9 miles will run through Upper Merion Township and Bridgeport Borough to Norristown, where it will then connect with the Schuylkill River Trail. The completed $20.2 million trail will be 22 miles long.
The Chester Valley Trail extension is considered integral to Montgomery County’s trail system, Hartman said.
It will offer access to Philadelphia and the western parts of Montgomery County. Path users will be able to connect to other major trails with a plethora of directional possibilities — they could walk or ride west to the Perkiomen Trail and travel all the way to Green Lane Park in Perkiomenville.
The paved trail will be 12 feet wide, off-road, and designed for both cyclists and pedestrians — for recreation and commuting.
The design will “enable people with different capacities and abilities to use the trail system, whether it’s because of your age or a handicap or some other disability,” Hartman said.
The project has been in the works for three years. It mostly was funded with federal dollars through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program (CMAQ); Montgomery County spent about $1.97 million of its own capital funds.
Along the trail are some new bridges — one in Bridgeport over railroad tracks, one above South Gulph Road in King of Prussia, and one over Henderson Road in Upper Merion Township.
The Cross County Trail
Montgomery County is advancing another major trail project — the new Cross County Trail. When complete, the $6.2 million project will run 17.5 miles across the county, from the Schuylkill River Trail in Conshohocken to the Pennypack Trail in Upper Moreland and Bryn Athyn.
Each segment of the trail is at different stages in the “development pipeline” — either already existing, under study, in engineering, or under construction, Hartman said.
About 3 miles of the trail already exist starting at the Schuylkill River Trail in Conshohocken and going up to Germantown Pike. The county is looking for funding to construct a roughly $8 million to $10 million trail bridge over Germantown Pike to continue the trail into Whitemarsh.
The 1.9-mile section of the Cross County Trail from Germantown Pike to Joshua Road is in the study phase.
The 1.3-mile section from Joshua Road to Stenton Avenue is projected to start construction in 2023. The county will also connect that part of the Cross County Trail — at Stenton Avenue — to the Wissahickon Trail with a new 2-mile extension. Those two pieces are projected to be completed by the end of 2024.
Upper Dublin is taking the lead on designing and funding its section of the trail — just over 4 miles from Pennsylvania Avenue up to Welsh Road.
The county will start designing the last 5-mile stretch of the trail in 2023. It has already completed a feasibility study for one section.
Hartman described the trail system like a human’s circulatory system — with the Cross County as the “trail artery” because it allows path users to make many connections to other major trails.
Localized trails can link to the “veins and the capillaries” in the larger system. Users will eventually be able to take the Cross County Trail to the Wissahickon Trail, Power Line Trail, Cresheim Trail, and the Schuylkill River Trail into Philadelphia.
“You’ve got to build that basic infrastructure that provides the broad access that you can then tie into and connect,” he said.
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