By RICHARD ILGENFRITZ | | Main Line Media News

Work could begin over the next year to extend two of the Main Line’s most popular rail trails.

This week Chris Leswing, director of Building and Planning for Lower Merion, said a long-awaited extension to the Cynwyd Heritage Trail could begin by the end of the year.

The extension would run along the existing SEPTA line between the Cynwyd and Bala stations at City Avenue.

A couple of years ago, the project was moving forward, but it took an unexpected hit once the pandemic arrived and progress slowed.

“Finally [Wednesday] at 4:30, we received the first draft lease to extend [the trail] – that’s the key piece of this. With that draft lease, we could begin to move onto the final design and bid the project out, and maybe by the end of the year, we could begin construction,” Leswing said.

As many trail users know, the Cynwyd Trail uses the former railroad bed of a line originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

SEPTA later took over the line, but service was shut down from the Cynwyd Station to Manayunk in the 1980s.

The original Cynwyd Heritage Trail went from the Cywndy station to Belmont Avenue, making it isolated from other trails.

In 2015, the bridge to Manayunk was opened, and there are ongoing plans to connect the trail with the bridge over the river at The Royal Athena apartments.

This next connection between the Cywnyd and Bala stations was always seen as another link in a wider trail network that could then enable people to go from Bala Cywnd into Philadelphia to Fairmont Park.

The other project that’s was recently discussed was in Radnor. Officials said work to extend the Radnor Trail on an unused section of railroad bed could begin in about a year.

The announcement was made during a virtual town hall meeting with township officials and Bob Thomas of Campbell Thomas & Co. Architects. The meeting was to update the community on the progress of the trail extension and how it could link to the wider Philadelphia trail network.

Under the plan, the trail would cross Radnor Chester Road at its current endpoint. Using the abandoned railroad bed, the trail would continue and end at a cul-de-sac near the ramps to the Blue Route. The new endpoint would also be near a property owned by the Radnor School District known as Martha Brown’s Woods.

But like the Cynwyd Trail, the longer-term goal has been to link it with other trails through the region.