Circuit Coalition campaigns for renewed trail funding

In 2010, the William Penn Foundation made a $10 million grant to help build the region’s trail network. This summer that pool of money will be drained. To continue the trail network expansion, the Circuit Coalition has launched a new campaign to lobby regional leaders and secure additional funding. Circuit leaders will hold the campaign’s first public caucus meeting tonight. 

The Circuit Coalition is working to expand the region’s trail network and its goal is to build and connect 750 miles of regional bike trails. To date the region has built about 250 miles. 

With the help of the William Penn Foundation’s* $10 million, three-year grant, the region has moved 40 miles of trail forward since 2010. While not all of those 40 miles have been constructed, critical planning and design steps were made possible with the funding. When the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) – in charge of allocating the funds – announces the next recipients this summer, that funding will have essentially been spent, explained Sarah Clark Stuart, a Circuit leader and policy director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

Through this new campaign, the Circuit Coalition wants to get that fund replenished with another $10 million for another three years.

“We feel strongly that we need to maintain this momentum,” Stuart said. “We need to do that at a regional level and ensure that we keep going if we’re going to make our goal of building out the entire system.”

This time around, the funding is “unlikely to come from the William Penn Foundation. The replenishment will most likely have to come from the region itself,” Stuart said. 

To demonstrate and build regional support, the Circuit Coalition is holding two caucus meetings this week – one tonight in Pennsylvania and one Wednesday in New Jersey

“The purpose of the meetings is to lay out this campaign to trail enthusiasts and anyone who is interested in seeing a trail completed, or started, or moved further along in its development,” Stuart said. 

At both meetings, someone from each Philadelphia area county has been asked to speak about what trails might be candidates for construction. Circuit leaders will ask meeting attendees to take post cards and try to get letters of support from local businesses and to direct those to the nine county commissioners who make up the DVRPC board of directors. 

Over the next few months Circuit leaders hope to speak with friends groups, environmental advisory councils and other interested parties throughout the region. Then in the fall, the Circuit leaders hope to meet with leaders of the region’s nine counties and encourage the DVRPC board to renew the regional trail funding. 

This campaign comes at a time when both the City of Philadelphia and Camden County are planning future trail expansion that will need funding. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission is expected to vote on Philadelphia Trail Master Plan this summer, and the Camden County Bicycling & Multi-Use Trails Master Plan is nearing completion as well. 

As reported earlier, the Philadelphia Trail Master Plan, still in draft form, proposes the City add 75 trails, or roughly 105 trail miles. The master plan prioritizes which of those trails should see investment first. Similarly, the Camden County trail plan has identified priority trail projects. Once the plan is approved, it will be incorporated into the county’s master plan. 

“All of that planning is falling into place,” Stuart said. “It’s time to then go to the next step which is to start to build it.”

While DVRPC’s recent long-range plan, which is open for public comment through July 8, states that the region lacks adequate transportation funding, Stuart said, “Everyone’s squeezed for funds, and I don’t think that’s a reason not to continue to try to build [the network].”

“I think one of the important reasons to run this campaign is to essentially have that conversation,” she said. “Is [the network] going to be a priority and how much of a priority?”

* In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that PlanPhilly is funded by the William Penn Foundation through PennPraxis and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

The Circuit
The Circuit

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