NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> The board supervisors on Oct. 23 agreed to have the Newtown Creek Coalition make a formal public presentation at a future regular board meeting about its proposal to build a footbridge across the creek connecting the township to Newtown Borough.
The supervisors are considering a resolution put forward by the coalition to explore whether the idea has merit and warrants further investigation.
Mike Sellers, the president of the non-profit coalition, outlined the proposal at the supervisors’ Sept. 16 work session, which was not televised and sparsely attended by the public.
The idea is simple - to create a safe, recreational connection across the Newtown Creek that will provide a missing link in the local trail system and a safer alternative for walkers and bikers to cross the creek, said Sellers.
According to Sellers, a safe recreational connection between the two municipalities could be built using the existing piers and public right-of-way of an old trolley bridge, which spanned Newtown Creek between Frost Lane and Durham Road (behind Penn Community Bank) before service was discontinued in 1923.
The trolley ran along Penn Street, State Street and crossed the creek at Frost Lane before continuing to Doylestown.
According to Chairman Phil Calabro, township residents need to see details of the coalition’s plan to use the right-of-way and old bridge remnants.
“I think it’s a good thing, but we need a formal public presentation,” he contended. “The next step is for the coalition to come in and present the proposal.”
All the board members agreed.
“I think it’s a great idea for Newtown Borough and Newtown Township, if there’s a chance to raise the old stone bridge,” said Supervisor Kyle Davis. “But my biggest concern is the cost,” he added.
Meanwhile Supervisor Linda Bobrin echoed her support, noting that there must be input from both the borough and township to see if there’s interest, as well as possible outside funding.
“The coalition can gather funding with its nonprofit status,” commented Supervisor Dennis Fisher, saying that he would like to see the plan go forward if it’s feasible.
At last month's work session, Sellers told the supervisors that there currently is no safe pedestrian crossing across Newtown Creek.
Until 2016, pedestrians could use a footbridge off of North State Street which was on private property. However, the bridge was shut down by the property owner after it fell into disrepair and became a liability.
According to Sellers, pedestrians now only have the option of using two existing bridges, one owned by the county on Jefferson Street, and a state-owned bridge on Centre Avenue.
But Sellers argued that two spans are not all that safe for foot traffic because each bridge only has a walkway on one side, making it a challenge for pedestrians.
And Sellers said retrofitting either bridge with a second sidewalk to create a safer condition would be a “tremendous struggle.
“The good news is that pedestrians can cross in some fashion. The bad news is it is particularly difficult for bikers, walkers and strollers to get across the creek,” said Sellers.
Sellers said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has an inventory of old railroad spans that have been taken apart and stored for future use for projects such as this one.
He said that if both the borough and township agree, then the coalition would seek outside funding to undertake the construction and do “all that is necessary to make this project a reality.”
The bridge could also eventually be connected to the township’s planned comprehensive trail system.
No date has been scheduled for the coalition’s public presentation.