Liberty Bell Trail

The Liberty Bell Trail links some of the densest, most diverse communities in Montgomery County to public transportation, job centers, neighbors, open spaces, and recreational opportunities from the Schuylkill River Trail to Bucks County and beyond

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.

From the winter of 2021 to the spring of 2022, eight Montgomery County municipalities – with support from PEC – worked with Michael Baker International to conduct an updated feasibility study for the Montgomery County section of the LBT. In the spring of 2022 this feasibility study was adopted by all eight municipalities and can be viewed here.

While the present-day trail is not able to follow the actual route of the Liberty Bell and historic trolley, it is in many ways a spiritual successor of these corridors, carrying on their tradition of connection and adventure.

In the winter and spring of 2023 PEC commissioned a second study from MBI, this time investigating the LBT alignment from the Schuylkill River Trail in the City of Norristown to the southern terminus of the LBT from the 2021-2022 study in Parkside Place in Upper Gwynedd. This “Southern Connection” of the LBT ranks as the #1 overall Circuit Trail segment in terms of overall equity impact if completed per PEC’s Gap Analysis of the Circuit Trails network.

The Liberty Bell Trail from Telford Borough to Upper Gwynedd Township

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.

The recent feasibility study focused 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 investigated changes that have occurred along the planned trail route, explore alternatives, and make recommendations for a preferred alignment. These technical tasks were supported by a robust public outreach program using numerous virtual and traditional techniques. In the spring of 2022 this feasibility study was adopted by all eight municipalities and can be viewed here.

The Liberty Bell Trail in Bucks County, PA

In the spring of 2023, the Liberty Bell Trail from the border with Montgomery County to Fairview Avenue in Quakertown was removed from the official Circuit Trails map, as SEPTA rejected the project team’s requests to utilize portions of their ROW for a rail-with-trail south of the Upper Bucks Rail Trail’s current endpoint at Veteran’s Park. However, funding from a congressional earmark of $1.7 million is being used to jump-start an alternate alignment for the LBT from Veteran’s Park to Fairview Avenue, which remains a Circuit Trail and as serves as its southern terminus in Bucks County.

From here, trail users can access the Saucon Rail Trail to the north to explore the Lehigh Valley, LINK Trail network, and Pennsylvania Highlands Trail.

The Southern Connection

In the winter and spring of 2023, PEC sponsored an exploratory study for the final – and arguably, the most important – section of the Liberty Bell Trail, from where the 2021-2022 MBI feasibility study starts in Upper Gwynedd to its junction with the Schuylkill River Trail in Norristown. This section, known as the “Southern Connection,” ranks as the #1 overall priority trail segment out of all 253 unbuilt Circuit Trails segments analyzed in our Gap Analysis of the Circuit Trails network.

The new exploratory study recommends a primarily off-road, multi-use trail with sections of on-road bicycle facility connectors and safety improvements. One section of this trail, through the Norristown Farm Park, has already been designated as an existing Circuit Trail. PEC is now working with the municipalities along the corridor to implement the recommendations of the study and build more miles of trail.

What's Next?

If you would like to stay up to date on the Liberty Bell Trail, email Zhenya Nalywayko: [email protected]