Chester Valley Trail Public Meeting Recap

By Amanda Lozinak, Transportation Management Association of Chester County

This plans prepared in this summary and presentation are subject to change throughout the study. 

Last Wednesday, the Chester County Planning Commission hosted a public meeting for the proposed plans for the Chester Valley Trail Extension into Downingtown, as part of the growing Circuit Trails.  With the trail’s popularity, more than 70 people attended the meeting with mainly positive reactions to the plans!  Brian Styche, trails and open space planner at the Chester County Planning Commission, led the presentation about the extension. 

The recommended route for the future trail extension site is the inactive Norfolk Southern Philadelphia & Thorndale (P&T) Branch, which would essentially eliminate road crossings and minimize the number of property owners with which to negotiate.  PennDOT is currently negotiating with Norfolk Southern for potential acquisition of the P&T Branch and their interest in the line is to be able to expand the Exton SEPTA/Amtrak Station with the remainder to be developed as a trail by Chester County.

The following is a summary of each Phase of the extension.  To view the Powerpoint from the meeting, click here

  • Phase 1 would include an on-road bike route from Phase IVa (Oaklands Corporate Center) to Clover Mill Road and Boot Road into Downingtown.  This would serve as a temporary bicyclist only route to connect the Chester Valley Trail to Downingtown with the assumption that the long-term bicycle and pedestrian multi-use trail would be developed on the P&T Branch. 
  • Phase 2 would consist of connecting the Chester Valley Trail to the Norfolk Southern Line.  To accomplish this connection, Chester County would have to acquire an easement through the Laborer’s Training property to connect the trail to Ship Road and purchase a small portion of land to develop a trailhead parking facility nearest Ship Road.  The trail would then follow Ship Road under the Route 30 Bypass and connect to the Norfolk Southern Line.  The P&T Branch would then be converted to a 2.5 mile multi-use trail from Ship Road to the eastern end of the Whitford Bridge.
  • Phase 3 would include renovation of the Whitford Bridge for trail use, development of a trailhead at the western end of the bridge and continuation of the multi-use trail along the Norfolk Southern Line to Southwind Lane where there may be another opportunity to develop a trailhead facility on a now vacant lot adjacent to Boot Road.  This Phase will be about 2.2 miles. 
  • Phase 4 would extend the multi-use trail along the Norfolk Southern Line from Southwind Lane to a point east of the Downingtown Trestle where additional easements will be required to make a connection to Trestle Place and eventually Robbins Road within the Trestle Bridge Business Center. These low volume roads will then become connections to the East Branch Brandywine and Struble Trails.  This Phase will be about 1.25 miles.

According to a recent Chester Valley Trail Extension survey, respondents would like to see a connection to historical landmarks along the Trail.  The Downingtown Trestle Bridge, built between 1903 & 1906, is 1451 feet long and 122 feet high over the Brandywine Creek.  The Trestle Bridge may be renovated for trail use, but may not be part of the Chester Valley Trail alignment heading west due to the lack of connectivity options west of the Trestle.  All structures along the P&T Branch, including the Whitford Bridge, Downingtown Trestle, PA 100 Bridge and the alignment’s many stone arch underpasses will require structural inspection before any trail construction or bridge renovations take place.

The County is planning to develop a more detailed Master Plan for the recommended alignment over the course of the summer and present the draft of the Master Plan at a public meeting in September.  This vision will create not only a tremendous recreation and transportation resource, but also economic development opportunities.

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