Trolleys to Trails

August 8, 2018
PEC Blog
The Liberty Bell trolley served Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley from 1912 to 1951.

The Liberty Bell trolley served Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley from 1912 to 1951.

In 1912, the Lehigh Valley Transit Company’s Liberty Bell trolley connected Norristown and Philadelphia with Allentown. By the 1950s, passengers catching the Liberty Bell in Allentown could reach Norristown in two hours after rolling (sometimes at 80 miles per hour) through rural villages and the bucolic landscapes of Upper Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

The Liberty Bell trolley’s last run occurred in 1951, but much of the trolley’s right-of-way is still visible in the communities that used to rely on the service to travel through the region. For years, proponents of active transportation and recreation along the former Liberty Bell trolley route have envisioned the corridor becoming a multi-use trail that will once again connect communities from the Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell Trail is now a Circuit Trail in planning, and PEC is working with residents and leaders in Upper Bucks County to make the trail a reality. When completed in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, it will link to the Schuylkill River Trail in Norristown and provide the same connections that the Liberty Bell Trolley did nearly 70 years ago.

The Liberty Bell Trail Feasibility Study is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Community & Economic Development. It brings together the municipalities of Perkasie, Quakertown, Sellersville, Richland Township, West Rockhill, East Rockhill, and Hilltown. The team has hired Gilmore and Associates to complete the feasibility study which will determine the best route for the future Liberty Bell Trail to take through their municipalities. The planners will be analyzing existing trail plans, property ownership, and right-of-way data to create the study.

PEC is working with the municipal partners to perform community engagement and stakeholder outreach. PEC believes that the best plans are made when local residents are engaged and invested in the future trail, and we will use our experience working in communities around the region to develop a coalition of residents that support their local governments’ work to provide trail infrastructure to the community.

The Liberty Bell Feasibility Plan’s kick-off meeting occurred in July. The first community meeting to get feedback from local residents and stakeholders about what they would like from the trail plan is scheduled for October 7, 2018 in Perkasie. PEC is thrilled to be a part of the planning process, and proud to use active transportation and outdoor recreation to connect communities with each other and the incredible environmental assets of Pennsylvania.

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