Liberty Bell Trail
When completed, the Liberty Bell Trail 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 (LBT) corridor has been nearly 250 years in the making. The path was first trod by a few brave Pennsylvanians just before the British Army invaded Philadelphia, who carried the Liberty Bell out of Philadelphia to safety in Allentown.
In the early 1900s, as Philadelphia and its suburbs were rapidly expanding, the historic route colonists used to rescue the Liberty Bell over 100 years earlier was converted into the Liberty Bell Trolley Line. For the next half century, this trolley took Pennsylvanians from Philadelphia, through Norristown and Quakertown and into Allentown. The Liberty Bell Trolley Line was known as one of the best trolley systems in America at the time.
As the use of automobiles became increasingly widespread starting in the 1920s, the Liberty Bell Trolley saw fewer and fewer passengers until 1951, when the Lehigh Valley Transit Company (which owned the Liberty Bell Trolley) ceased operations. Sadly, the rails and many of the trolley cars were immediately taken and scrapped for the Korean War effort.
However, to this day the LBT corridor is lined with historic landmarks, cultural resources, natural amenities, and vibrant commercial and residential districts. In 2005, a feasibility study along the Liberty Bell corridor by the Waetzman Group sought to reinvigorate this historic path by turning it into a pedestrian and bicycle trail.
Beginning in the winter of 2021, eight Montgomery County municipalities – with support from PEC – have hired Michael Baker International to conduct an updated feasibility study for the Montgomery County section of the LBT. This feasibility study is now underway, and the public outreach process has begun.
The Current Study
Eight municipalities in Montgomery County are collaborating with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and consulting firm Michael Baker International to advance the planning of the Liberty Bell Trail (LBT). Those municipalities include Upper Gwynedd Township, North Wales Borough, Lansdale Borough, Hatfield Township, Hatfield Borough, Franconia Township, Souderton Borough and Telford Borough. A prior LBT Feasibility Study completed in 2005 investigated the potential development of the former 25-mile Liberty Bell Trolley route between Norristown and Quakertown into a trail network for walking and bicycling.
This feasibility study will focus on the 11-mile portion of the LBT in Montgomery County. Over the past 16 years, some progress has been made toward its completion, including construction of approximately 1.5 miles in Lansdale Borough and another half mile in Hatfield Borough. As part of this trail update, we will investigate changes that have occurred along the planned trail route, explore alternatives, and make recommendations for a preferred alignment. These technical tasks will be supported by a robust public outreach program using numerous virtual and traditional techniques. The study is anticipated to be completed by early 2022.
How can YOU get involved in the Montgomery County Liberty Bell Trail feasibility study? A great first step is to check out the WikiMap and fill out the associated survey. Beyond that, the most important thing you can do to push the Liberty Bell Trail forward is reaching out to your elected officials to express your support. Township staff and administration will be responsible for seeking funding to put this feasibility study into action, and they need to know their constituents are in support!
If you would like to stay up to date on upcoming public meetings and events, be sure to check out our webpage. Email Zhenya Nalywayko ([email protected]) if you would like to be placed on our mailing list.