NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The Newtown Borough Council will partner with Newtown Township and the Newtown Creek Coalition in exploring the feasibility of building a pedestrian bridge across the Newtown Creek.
At its meeting on Feb. 4, council voted unanimously to approve a resolution finding the concept of a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Newtown Creek “has merit and warrants further investigation.”
The resolution also authorizes the borough’s staff and professionals to participate in the exploration of the requirements for such a project, including available funding sources.
The proposed footbridge would span the Newtown Creek using an existing right-of-way between Frost Lane in Newtown Borough and the Sycamore Center in Newtown Township (behind Penn Community Bank).
In January, Mike Sellers, from the Newtown Creek Coalition, detailed the coalition’s vision for the span, which he said would create a safe, recreational and pedestrian connection across the creek, provide a missing link in the local and regional trail system and easy pedestrian access between residential neighborhoods in Newtown Borough and Newtown Township’s commercial core.
“A bridge at this particular location across the Newtown Creek would benefit many of the goals of both the borough and the township,” said Sellers, referring to the numerous local and regional trail connections that could be achieved with the new span.
More importantly, said Sellers, a new span would provide a safe alternative for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Up until 2016, residents had the option of crossing the creek using a pedestrian bridge located off of North State Street. That bridge, however, which is located on private property, was shut down after it fell into disrepair and became a liability to the property owner.
The envisioned footbridge would utilize an existing right of way once used by the Newtown Electric Street Railway Company for a trolley line before it was discontinued in 1923. It would also use the existing stone piers dating from the 1800s as footings for the bridge.
The bridge itself, said Sellers, could come from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), which maintains an inventory of old railroad spans that have either been taken apart and stored for future use or left in place for projects such as this one.
“This is a resource we may be able to take advantage of to get an existing bridge,” said Sellers. “The challenge will be to find out exactly what it is design-wise we need to do to make it fit the piers. Are these piers structurally sufficient? What load can it take? How big of a bridge do we need?”
According to Sellers, PennDOT sells the trusses for a dollar, but buyers have to pay the cost of transporting them to the site. That cost, he said, could be paid for through grants focusing on history, transportation, recreation and stormwater management.
“The point is there are bridges out there available for $1 that we could access as part of this project,” said Sellers.
The coalition initially brought the concept plan to the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, which voted in November to start the ball rolling on the project. The board passed a resolution establishing a working group to explore the feasibility and available state grants to build the structure.
According to Sellers, between 60 and 65 percent of the project is located in Newtown Township with the balance in the borough.
“It is for this reason Newtown Township was first approached about its interest in pursuing the pedestrian bridge,” said Sellers. “Obviously if the township for any reason was not interested in moving forward there would be no point to talk to the borough about it.”
In other business, council voted unanimously to hire Michael McAllister as the borough’s newest non-civil servant part-time Police officers at a rate of $21 an hour.
McAllister, a resident of Bucks County and a graduate of Council Rock North High School, earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Shippensburg University in 2008 and graduated from the Delaware County Police Academy in 2010.
McAllister previously served as a Police Officer in Newtown Borough from 2013 to 2016 and most recently was employed as a police officer for the Central Bucks Regional Police Department.
In other business, council approved a revised Special Event Application for the Shamrock Shuffle 5K Run to be held on Saturday, March 14 in Newtown Borough.
“This is another great opportunity to show off our town and bring an economic factor,” said Councilman Bob Szwajkos. “The cooperation of activity people, council and business is very important and we’re doing it better than ever.”
More than 850 runners took part in last year’s shuffle, which will wind its way through the residential streets of Newtown Borough in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Parking will be at Council Rock North High School and at the parking lot across from Olde Saint Andrew Church on Sycamore Street with shuttle service to and from the start and finish of the race.
The run, sponsored by Boss Events, will take place from 9 to 10 A.M. along a revised race course through Newtown Borough. The race will start and finish on North State Street and will use Edgeboro Drive, Liberty Street, Green Street, North Congress and North Chancellor streets.
“Rather than 800 participants winding up at the Green Parrot, they’re going to be in the borough eating in our restaurants, shopping in our stores rather in the township,” said Police Chief James Sabath, of the revised course.
A Love For Life, a Newtown Borough-based nonprofit supporting pancreatic cancer research, has been named the event’s official charity partner.
Organizers said participants in this year’s race will receive great swag, including an official event t-shirt, a finisher medal and charms.
In addition, participants will be eligible for specials and discounts from local merchants and restaurants, including the Temperance House, the Coffee Room, Salt Cave, Newtown Brewing Company, LaStalla,Newtown Hardware House, Isaac Newton’s, the ProShop and more. For additional information and to register, visit NewtownShamrockShuffle.com.