The South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) is working with Atlantic County to identify a feasibility route for a 16-mile gap in South Jersey’s trail network between the planned Camden County Link Trail and the existing Atlantic County Bikeway. Completing this connection would advance a regional trail network in South Jersey by providing a continuous, off-road, multi-use trail from Philadelphia to Egg Harbor Township for all ages and abilities.
Purpose of the Feasibility Study
This study’s objective is to determine a feasible route for an off-road trail connection between the planned eastern terminus of the Camden County Link Trail in Winslow Township, just west of the Atlantic County border, and the existing western terminus of the Atlantic County Bikeway at Route 40 near Mays Landing. The new Atlantic County Bikeway West will help provide a seamless transition across the 16-mile gap separating these trails.
Camden County Link
A planned 33-mile multi-use trail slated to travel through Camden County and connect a variety of recreational, commercial, and residential areas. A feasibility study was completed in 2017 and sections of the trail are currently being designed.
Atlantic County Bikeway
An existing 7.5-mile long shared use path maintained by the Atlantic County Park System. The trail runs between Harbor Square in Egg Harbor Township and the Atlantic County Institute of Technology in Hamilton Township. Amenities include three parking areas and a pedestrian-actuated traffic signal at English Creek Avenue.
Several previous studies and planning efforts are informing this current effort including:
|Developed by SJTPO, the South Jersey Trails Design Guide provides a framework for a comprehensive trails network in South Jersey similar to the Philadelphia region’s Circuit Trail network. The Atlantic County Bikeway West was identified as a priority trail segment in the design guide.||The Cross Camden County Trail Study recommends a proposed trail alignment through Camden County, along with a supporting economic impact analysis and trail concept plan.|
The proposed Atlantic County Bikeway West will be a multi-use trail that can be considered a shared use path, sidepath, or some combination of the two. Both shared use paths and sidepaths offer bi-directional travel for cyclists and pedestrians on a paved surface with an absolute minimum width of 8 feet and a preferred minimum of 10 feet. The main difference between the two facility types is determined by how they are separated from traffic. Shared use paths are often located in parks, open space, or forested areas with complete separation from nearby roads, while sidepaths are located adjacent to roadways. Buffer areas between a sidepath and roadway can vary from as little as two feet to much greater widths, depending on available right-of-way and other constraints.
|Example of a Shared Use Path||Example of a Sidepath|
The trail will be open to all interested users ranging from local community members to those visiting from outside the region. To provide real-life examples of expected trail uses, a series of “trail user profiles” were developed. The profiles are not intended to encompass every possible trail user, but to assist with the evaluation of trail alignments. Three profiles were developed:
Project mapping was gathered from several sources and includes points of interest, zoning, land use, existing bike and pedestrian facilities, and natural features and hazards. Together, these variables help identity demand for the trail as well as opportunities and constraints along the corridors under consideration.
Additional criteria used to select and evaluate trail alignments include:
- Right-of-way availability
- Separation from traffic
- Conflict points between trail users and vehicles
- Proximity to population centers, amenities, and bicycle/pedestrian connections
- Environmental constraints
- Maintenance, security, and emergency access
The existing conditions analysis – along with input from SJTPO, Atlantic County, and the Steering Advisory Committee – led to the identification of three potential trail alignments:
- ACE/NJ 50 Alignment
- US 322/Weymouth Road Alignment
- NJ 54/Rail Corridor Alignment
These alternatives were presented and analyzed at Public Meeting #1 in June 2021.
The first public meeting incorporated several outreach elements aimed at maximizing public participation. The meeting included content on the project webpage, a narrated presentation, a virtual live Q&A session (held on June 23rd), and a public survey.
The public survey solicited information concerning how stakeholders would use the trail, which alignment they preferred, and general feedback on the trail. The following summarizes the survey results:
- 69% of respondents identify as Local Recreational Users with most stating they would use the trail for exercise or recreation
- 52% of respondents preferred the 54/Rail Corridor alignment, 14% preferred the 322/Weymouth Road alignment, and 35% had no preference
- “Separation from traffic” was ranked as the most important alignment selection characteristic
In addition, several themes resonated from the comments that were submitted, including a desire for amenities such as bike racks and bathrooms, a strong interest in having the trail connect with the Taylor Avenue train station in Mays Landing, and developing a spur route that would connect the trail with Hammonton.
The NJ 54/Rail Corridor alignment was selected as the preferred overall alignment based on the same evaluation criteria that were used to develop alignments, while also considering public feedback and discussions with the steering committee. Primary factors for selecting this alternative included:
- Availability of public right-of-way along NJ 54
- A high degree of separation from traffic, particularly along the rail corridor segment, which leads to a safer and more enjoyable user experience
- Proximity to population centers and bicycle/pedestrian connections
The proposed alignment would travel east from the planned terminus of the Camden County Link in Winslow Township to the Beasley’s Point secondary rail corridor, along the west side of the rail tracks until they meet NJ 54, and then run along the east side of NJ 54’s wide right-of-way. The trail would then turn and continue east into Buena Vista and Hamilton Townships along the vacant rail corridor parallel to US 40 before continuing off-road as a sidepath through Mays Landing to the existing Atlantic County Bikeway.
Subsequent planning for the trail was focused on three challenging areas along the alignment, which are referred to as “Focus Areas” and described below:
Focus Area 1 (Folsom Borough)
Beginning at the planned terminus of the Camden County Link in Winslow Township, the proposed alignment would extend east for about two miles before reaching a currently inactive rail corridor owned by Conrail. Most of this stretch is located on publicly owned parcels, except for two residential parcels near 14th Street. The trail would then run for ¾ of a mile along the west side of the rail right-of-way and pass beneath the US 322 and NJ 54 bridges. Once through the NJ 54 bridge, the trail would run up the slope to meet the highway and run along the east side of NJ 54 as a sidepath for approximately five miles.
Primary considerations in this focus area include:
- Coordination with NJDEP and hunting groups for the segment within the Winslow Wildlife Management Area
- Negotiating access across private properties near 14th Street
- Minimizing wetland impacts and avoiding steep slopes near 13th Street
- Coordination with Conrail for the rails-with-trails portion
Access to NJ 54 bridge over Conrail corridor
Rails with Trails Corridor
|NJ 54 Proposed Alignment|
Focus Area 2 (Buena Vista Township)
This area covers the stretch of NJ 54 from Weymouth-Malaga Road to US 40. Two potential alignments are being considered to connect the NJ 54 alignment with the abandoned rail corridor paralleling US 40. Both alignments would use the Buena Vista Campground to connect with Railroad Boulevard, as follows:
- Alignment “A” runs south along NJ 54 until Fursin Avenue, then travels along the south side of Fursin Avenue before veering to the south through privately owned parcels to the campground. This option has the benefit of running along public right of way but is not as desirable from a trail user perspective due to the proximity to NJ 54.
- Alignment “B” veers away from NJ 54 just north of Pancoast Mill Road, crosses at a midblock location, and then runs between private properties along an existing farm road before connecting across Fursin Avenue to the campground. This option would be most desirable for trail users due to its separation from vehicular traffic but is contingent on the ability to secure an easement or right of way for the trail.
East of the campground, the trail would run along the former railbed parallel to Railroad Boulevard for about three miles until reaching Richland Village. Most of this right-of-way is cleared of structures and vegetation; however, there are four structures near St. Augustine’s School located within the rail corridor. In these areas, the trail will likely need to run adjacent to Railroad Boulevard for short segments and/or private ROW may need to be acquired.
Primary considerations in this focus area include:
- Further investigation of right-of-way and frontage impacts for the segment south of Malaga Road, where NJDOT’s right-of-way narrows from 120 to 50 feet
- Most of the railroad right of way in Buena Vista Township is privately owned, thereby requiring coordination with property owners
- Several buildings west of St. Augustine’s School situated within the railroad corridor will need to be addressed
- Creating access routes to connect the trail with US 40 and Richland Village
Buena Vista Campground Entrance Road
|Strand Ave (East End)|
Proposed Alignment Along Rail Right-of-Way
Focus Area 3 (Hamilton Township)
East of Richland Village, the trail would extend for about seven miles along the rail right-of-way – which is owned by Hamilton Township – before reaching Mays Landing. It’s proposed that the trail would run parallel and to the north of Central Avenue near the Mays Landing Fire Department. The trail would then access Mays Landing and the Taylor Avenue train station via a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the Great Egg Harbor River, which is needed to replace the existing deteriorated structure. After crossing the river, the trail would continue east along County right-of-way – passing directly by the Taylor Avenue train station – until reaching Farragut Avenue.
Crossing at Great Egg Harbor River
Taylor Avenue Train Station
After crossing Farragut Avenue, the trail would weave through Gaskill Park to the intersection of Main Street (US 40), River Road (CR 617) and Somers Point Road (CR 559). Modifying the existing intersection geometry and widening the sidewalk along the north side of the US 40 bridge are proposed to create a safe and accessible trail connection through the intersection.
|Proposed Reconfiguration at US 40/CR 617 Intersection|
Existing Conditions along Route 40 Bridge east of River Rd
|Proposed Conditions along Route 40 Bridge east of River Rd|
East of the intersection, the trail would continue for approximately 1.5-mile along the north side of US 40, cross at the signalized intersection of Cantillion Boulevard, and then connect with the existing Atlantic County bikeway on the south side. There is enough right of way along US 40 to create a substantial buffer between the trail and the roadway.
|Proposed Sidepath along Route 40 east of Mays Landing|
Primary considerations in this focus area include:
- Minimizing wetland impacts and negotiating a right-of-way for the segment parallel to Central Avenue
- Permitting and design for a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the Great Egg Harbor River
- Coordination with NJDOT and Atlantic County to reconfigure the US 40/CR 617 intersection
Trailheads are designated locations where access to the trail is provided. Trailheads often include vehicle and bicycle parking and can also serve as rest areas with amenities such as restrooms, benches, and kiosks. Providing trailheads at regular intervals can help maximize public use of the trail, particularly for those who may not be able to arrive on foot or bike.
This plan includes eleven candidate locations for trailheads with differing levels of amenities. The proposed trailhead locations, type of trailhead, and approximate milepost are listed below. Several sites would require new parking facilities, while others would take advantage of existing parking at or near the location.
- Camden Link (rest area without parking), MP 0.00
- NJ 54 Sidepath, NJ 54 at rail overpass (trailhead with new parking), MP 2.86
- Buena Regional Schools, NJ 54 at Weymouth Rd (trailhead using school parking), MP 7.14
- Bella Vista Campground (trailhead with new parking), MP 9.13
- Augustine’s School, West Jersey Blvd at Cedar Ave (trailhead using school parking), MP 11.94
- Mizpah Park, Jefferson Ave at Railroad Blvd (trailhead with new parking), MP 13.95
- Harding Lake Ballfields, Reading Ave at Knight Ave, (trailhead using existing parking), MP 18.87
- West Mays Landing, Central Ave at Reliance Ave (rest area for fishing access), MP 20.03
- Taylor Avenue Train Station (trailhead with new parking), MP 20.31
- Gaskill Park, Farragut Ave (trailhead using existing parking), MP 20.48
- Atlantic County Bikeway, 19th St at Atlantic Ave (trailhead using existing parking), MP 22.30
|Candidate Locations for Trailheads and Rest Areas|
Bicycle and Pedestrian Connections
Once completed, the Atlantic County Bikeway – in concert with the Camden County Link and Somers Point-Pleasantville trail – will serve as a recreational and transportation asset that helps connect South Jersey communities. Since the bikeway cannot pass through every population center, it is essential that bicycle and pedestrian facilities be developed to connect the trail with nearby communities and activity centers. These connections will facilitate non-motorized access the local and regional trail network and help the system reach its maximum potential.
Examples of primary connections are highlighted below (north to south). Further opportunities to connect the Atlantic County Bikeway with nearby destinations including Vineland, Atlantic Cape Community College, the Hamilton Mall, Egg Harbor City, and other local and regional destinations should also be explored.
- Town of Hammonton – it will be important to link the northern portion of the trail with Hammonton, which is a major local population center and attraction. This spur could be developed as a separate off-road path along NJ 54 or other roads through Folsom and Winslow.
- Buena Regional Schools – sidewalk and intersection improvements will be needed near the NJ 54/Weymouth Road intersection to provide safe access to and from Buena Regional High School and Middle School.
- Buena Borough – bicycle/pedestrian facilities along Plymouth Street would connect the bikeway with the communities of Landisville and Minotola in Buena Borough, including an existing trail running along Northwest Boulevard.
- Richland Village – this commercial center in Buena Vista Township can serve as a major tourism stop and local rest area along the trail. Bicycle and pedestrian-friendly connections should be provided along Cedar Avenue and/or Main Avenue.
A final report is being developed that will document the work conducted through this study including existing conditions, evaluation of alternatives, selection of the proposed alignment, operations and maintenance considerations, capital cost estimates, and compliance requirements with the Pinelands and other regulatory agencies. The final plan is due to be completed by the end of 2021 and will be posted on the project webpage in early 2022.