The South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) is working with Cape May County to identify a feasibility route for a nine-mile gap in South Jersey’s trail network between the new Garden State Parkway Bridge and the planned trail connecting the existing trail head in Dennis Township. Completing this connection will advance a regional trail network in South Jersey by providing a continuous, off-road, multi-use trail from Egg Harbor Township to Cape May for all ages and abilities.
Purpose of Feasibility Study
This study’s objective is to determine a feasible route for the nine-plus mile off-road trail connection while considering:
- Proximity to community facilities such as parks, schools, recreational areas, historic properties; and churches,
- Use of existing easements and rights-of-way such as NJ Transit and Atlantic City Electric;
- Minimization of on street trail and road crossings;
- Environmentally sensitive areas;
- Emergency response accessibility;
- And cost
Dennis Township to Beesleys Point Connector
The project intent is to connect Cape May’s trail network into the Atlantic County network, and ultimately connect to Philadelphia for a total 105-mile off-road facility.
The existing Cape May County bikeway is located along dedicated portions of roadways in some locations but is primarily confined to former railways and existing utility rights-of-way to maximize the use of these linear byways for connectivity. In some limited locations easements across private lands were secured where necessary. However, it is the intent to leverage the use of former railroad infrastructure and existing utility and transportation rights-of-way where feasible to achieve an off-road trail connector which reduces reliance upon private land easements and minimizes disturbance to environmentally sensitive lands.
How Will Potential Trail Alignments be Determined?
The feasibility study will analyze numerous factors along the potential trail corridors within the defined study area and understand how current conditions and potential future developments may influence the establishment of a current preferred alignment that can proceed to implementation. Among the factors to be assessed include:
- Key Natural Resources and Sensitive Areas: Streams, wetlands, and habitat areas, for instance, may pose an opportunity (places to connect) or constraint (i.e., areas to avoid) for the trail design.
- Community Facilities: In addition to meeting goals for mobility and circulation, the trail will be designed as part of the overall civic landscape, linking together existing public facilities and open space resources.
- Transit Resources: The trail will serve as a key pedestrian/bicycle link in a multi-modal transportation network.
- Overall Planning Context: The trail must be designed to fit within the overall goals for Upper and Dennis Townships, Cape May County, and regional planning agencies.
These analyses will be performed with consideration for the need for trail amenities such as restroom facilities, lighting, physical barriers, wayfinding measures, drainage systems, emergency vehicle access, and ADA compliance.
How Does This Project Relate to Previous and Ongoing Trail Projects in the Study Area?
Atlantic County Bikeway
The SJTPO sponsored this study to identify a feasible route for an off-road trail segment between the planned eastern terminus of the Camden County Link Trail in Winslow Township, Camden County, and the existing western terminus of the Atlantic County Bikeway in Hamilton Township, Atlantic County.
South Jersey Trails Design Guide
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.
Cross Camden County Trail Study
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.
Why Invest in Trail Projects?
What Will the Trail Look Like?
The proposed Cape May County Trail Connectors will be a multi-use trail that can be considered a shared use path, sidepath, or combination of the two. The final route is still studied, but it is likely that there will be portions that run through woods and next to former rail lines. There will be a few places where the route will run next to roads.
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.
Where are we now?
The project team is in the research and existing conditions portion of the project. We are working through understanding of the physical, social, and environmental context for the project through:
- GIS base mapping
- Physical conditions assessments
- Natural features inventory
- Infrastructure inventory
- Environmental hazards assessment
From this information we are also working on developing alternative routes, which involves on-the-ground field inventories and stakeholder engagement of public and private property owners. Once the alternative routes are developed, more information will become available.