click above line for a great map of the proposed trail
Sunday, January 18, 2009 10:22 AM EST Daily Local News
We will believe it when we can walk it, but it looks as though the Chester Valley Trail may be on the fast track.
We — and any number of walkers and bicyclists and outdoors enthusiasts — have been waiting for the 12-mile-long trail connection between Exton and the Montgomery County line to be up and, shall we say, running, since it was first discussed in 1991.
But we know that in Chester County, a wait must come before good things arrive, especially when it comes to parks. Look at the county's former Embreeville County Park. Conceived in the mid-1980s, it was not until 2007 and its inclusion in the Natural Lands Trust's ChesLen Preserve that the 500 acres of natural beauty at Embreeville became something more than a dot on a map.
The latest in the Chester Valley Trail saga came on Tuesday, when county Commissioner Carol Aichele admitted to putting in a call to state Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler about the six or so miles of abandoned rail line land that the department owns, and which would make up the eastern portion of the Chester Valley Trail. Aichele described their chat as "a nice time," and by the end of the conversation, Biehler had apparently given the go ahead to turning over the land to the county.
That means, above all else, that construction of the trail could conceivably begin this summer.
It will also mean that construction of the trail will have a cost saving associated with it. Under the old arrangement, PennDOT would have had to approve all the construction, repair, and replacements associated with getting the trail in order. Not to shock anyone, but we understand that doing business with the state is considerably more expensive than doing business at the county level.
"The bureaucracy associated with working with the state agency is just staggering," county construction projects director Don Thompson said Tuesday. Even putting one stone back in a crumbling culvert would take extraordinary efforts to win approval, he said. With the state handing over the rights to the 5.5-mile segment it owns, Thompson said, the county stands to save significant time and money in years to come. The trail will cost some $25 million to complete, but Aichele said the funding is guaranteed through the state's Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).
The completion of the trail has long been sought by bicycle clubs, recreation buffs, and businesses and commuters in the Route 202 corridor. Aichele, who also serves as chairwoman of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, said many feel it would improve traffic conditions if commuters could stop and ride their bikes along the trail instead of remaining in their cars in Route 202 traffic jams. Local housing developers are also excited about the plan because it adds a selling point to homebuyers.
When it opens, it will be among the jewels of the county's planned trail network, and would allow someone to walk from Downingtown to Norristown and on to Philadelphia.
Again, we will believe it when we walk it, but we hope to be doing that soon.