February 7, 2009

Woodbury, four other towns, receive state bikeway grants

Courier-Post Staff

A $500,000 grant is about to help the city become an outdoor recreation and running destination, officials said.

The city received one of the largest individual town grants given by the state Department of Transportation to develop an 8,700-foot asphalt biking and walking trail planned to connect its ball fields, parks, businesses and schools.

Four other South Jersey municipalities -- Cherry Hill, Gloucester Township, Florence and Merchantville -- will share $620,000 in annual state bikeway grants awarded by the DOT.

"I thought someone was playing a joke on us," said Woodbury Mayor Robert Curtis, noting the city was denied a bikeway grant last year. "We improved the plan to provide safer ways for kids to walk and bike."

City officials said the project will connect and pave existing trails across the city and create access to what they said are "underutilized" parks and lakes. They said there should be enough money to create a bridge over the Evergreen Avenue railroad crossing.

"The city has 18 parks and a series of lakes to which access is somewhat limited," said John Carter of the Woodbury Roadrunners Club. "The trail will create opportunities to see and enjoy them."

Curtis and Carter said the 8-foot-wide path to open this year also can be the start of much more.

"There is tremendous potential to establish open or high school races in the city," Carter said.

The DOT awarded $4.4 million to municipalities statewide last month for a program that spokesman Tim Greeley said focuses to promote alternate transportation methods across communities and increase pedestrian safety. Greeley said funding for the initiative, signed by Gov. Jon S. Corzine in 2006, was budgeted in July. Through the grants, Greeley said, the DOT has helped fund the opening of 700 miles of dedicated bikeways statewide. He said its goal is 1,000 miles.

Cherry Hill plans to use its $65,000 grant this year to open a 210-foot, two-lane bikeway among Fox Hollow, Surrey Place East and Cherry Run developments, between Marlowe and Apley roads, said spokesman Dan Keashan. A future goal is to connect its 13 or so trails, which would make the township a regional passive recreation destination, Keashan said.

Florence received $300,000 to construct what will be its first bike path outside of a park, according to Tom Sahol, assistant township administrator. The 1.3-mile asphalt path is planned to connect the Mallard Creek and Brookside Drive developments on Route 130 to the Ezra "Budd" Marter Memorial Park on Old York Road, Sahol said.

Gloucester Township and Merchantville officials said their towns will extend their existing bikeways this year with DOT grants.

Gloucester Township plans to use its $105,000 grant to extend its approximately 2 1/2-mile trail south by 750 feet from Lakeland Avenue to Woodland Avenue, according to Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton. The money also will fund engineering and design, Rau-Hatton said. The township ultimately plans to lengthen its $900,000 trail to 3 1/2 miles, she said, an effort that started in 1997.

Merchantville clerk Denise Brouse said the borough's bikeway will be extended about a half mile across Center Street, behind the public works building. Brouse said the $150,000 granted by the DOT also will be used to construct benches and a fitness trail along the mile-long bikeway.

Reach Jeremy Rosen at (856) 486-2456 or jrosen@camden.gannett.com

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