Action Update: The NJ Transportation Improvement Program Recommends the Prioritization of the Circuit in Burlington County

This blog originally published on the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s blog on September 13, 2023.

In August, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) opened its public comment period for the Draft FY2024 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for New Jersey which is a critical funding opportunity for the Circuit Trails and bicycle/pedestrian projects. The TIP is the regionally agreed upon list of priority transportation projects over a four-year period, as required by federal law. The TIP document contains list of all projects that intend to use federal funds, along with all non-federally funded projects that are regionally significant, with estimated costs and schedules. It is updated every two years and provides an important opportunity to submit public comments on policies, individual projects and what the region spends federal transportation dollars on. Once a project has been programmed into the TIP, it is prioritized for federal transportation spending and greatly accelerates its development process.

On Tuesday, September 12th, the Bicycle Coalition attended DVRPC’s Regional Technical Committee (RTC) meeting with members who serve as an advisory unit that report directly to the the DVRPC Board. Following the 30-day public comment period for the Draft DVRPC FY2024 TIP for New Jersey, staff present an overview of comments received during the public comment period with a proposed list of recommended changes to the draft program.

Thanks to your advocacy efforts, 263 comments were submitted on behalf of the Bicycle Coalition and the Circuit Trails Coalition for the Draft FY24 TIP for NJ which made up 90% of the total comments addressed to the DVRPC Board. The action alert included the following comments:

1) I would like to thank the DVRPC Board for programming the Rancocas Creek Greenway, Laurel Run Park (DB# D2207), a Circuit Trails project, into the NJ TIP.

2) I would also like to thank the Board for programming the following projects which include bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements:
DB#’s 15423, 18383, 29337, D2023, D1910, 12346, 12346A, D2216, D2014

3) I urge the DVRPC to use a portion of the new Carbon Reduction Program (DB# D2305) and eligible highway funds to fund prioritized Circuit projects. The Draft TIP is silent on what NJDOT or DVRPC plans to spend Carbon Reduction Program funds on. It should at least reveal what NJDOT is spending Carbon Reduction Program funds in the 2023 TIP Program Year if decisions have been made for this current year.

4) The Connections 2050 Long Range Plan committed to allocating 5% of highway funds for bicycle-pedestrian projects. Based on that Long Range Plan commitment, the NJ TIP should be spending roughly $131 Million over 4 years, which is 5% of what the Draft TIP states it will be spending on highway projects (Statewide Highway for DVRPC plus DVRPC Region Highway, $2.636 billion over 4 years). However, the Draft NJTIP commits only $62.1 million over 4 years for 7 bicycle/pedestrian projects and 4 grant programs, which is 2.36% of the total budget. I ask the Board to commit $69 million more to match the 2050 Connections Long Range Plan allocation for Circuit Trails projects and other bicycle/pedestrian projects in the TIP so that more Circuit Trails projects can be programmed, helping to reach the goal of completing 500 miles of trails by 2025.

5) I ask the Board to program the following 5 Circuit Trails projects into the TIP to ensure they receive the necessary funding to accelerate their development. These projects can be funded with the Carbon Reduction Program and other flexible highway fund programs, such as the Surface Transportation Block Grant program.

– Glassboro-Elk Trail (previously listed as DB #D1203 in the FY22-25 NJTIP)
– Camden County LINK Trail
– Johnson Trolley Line Trail from Trenton to Ewing and Lawrence, including the trail bridge over I-295.
– Merchantville Trail (Burlington-Camden Trail from Camden to Maple Shade)
– Rancocas Creek Greenway Trail Bridge over Route 130 in Delanco and Willingboro

6) I do not support Highway Expansion projects proposed by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (TPK Mainline Capacity Enhancements Between I/C 1 – 4) and the South Jersey Transportation Authority (ACE Widening (MP 30.6-44): Widening of the Atlantic City Expressway from milepost 31.6 to 44.2.). Between these two agencies, they are proposing to spend over $3.6 billion dollars on highway expansion that is above and beyond the 4% allocated for highway expansion in the Long Range Plan. Meanwhile the region is experiencing historic heat and flooding impacts of climate change. It is irresponsible to fund these expansion projects.

In bold above, the fifth comment addressed to the Board asked that they program Circuit Trails projects into the TIP to ensure they receive the necessary funding needed to accelerate their development. This is an important ask which could advance the Circuit Trails Coalition’s goal of reaching 500 miles by 2025. Among those projects listed, the Rancocas Creek Greenway received recognition from the Office of TIP Development and Maintenance with the recommended changes shown below.

The recommended $19.2 million for the Rancocas Creek Greenway, State Route 130 Pedestrian Bridge and Trail Linkages would prioritize available funds to accelerate the development of this important connection to Pennington Park, Amico Island, and Rainbow Meadow Park. While this recommendation will need to be adopted by the DVRPC Board at the meeting that is scheduled on September 28th, this is an important development for the future connections to the Rancocas Creek Greenway and the Delaware River Heritage Trail in Burlington County. An update will be provided following the DVRPC Board meeting scheduled later this month.

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