Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Advocate Group Hopes To Add The Newtown Line To The Circuit Trail System

An organization called Build Our Trail is gathering support to turn the unused Newtown Line into a mixed-use trail.

The Newtown Line was a diesel shuttle train that connected the electric Fox Chase Line with Newtown in Bucks County. It was run by Reading Railroad and then by SEPTA, who shut down service in 1983. The corridor is unused except for a two mile stretch of the Pennypack Trail in Montgomery County. With only one property owner (SEPTA) to deal with the completion of a rail trail seems very possible.

Energized by The Circuit website, Build Our Trail is creating online support while also tabling at local events. Their website has this to say about the proposed trail:
"A 'shared-use' trail can be enjoyed by bicyclers, hikers, joggers, dog walkers, birders, nature enthusiasts, and more. Such trails have proven to be safe and valuable assets for local communities. Multi-use trails can be utilized by our future generations and create more appealing, healthy, and livable communities."
A rock cut in the Pennypack Trail - Lorimer Park

If built, the proposed trail would be a key segment of The Circuit, tying together the Pennypack Trail, Cross County Trail, Neshaminy Creek Trail and possibly the D&L Trail.

Over the years there have been ongoing discussions to either restore rail service or convert the alignment into a trail. PA-TEC, a transit advocacy group, is proposing rail restorationBucks County and Newtown Borough support rail restoration. From time to time there has also been an informal group of trail advocates known as Friends of the Newtown Trail. 

While the call for rail restoration or Bus Rapid Transit has been a popular one, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The last study to take place was the "Newtown Bus Rapid Transit And Pedestrian Trail Concept Study" in 2006. The title is misleading as it does not mention a trail at all. But it cites environmental and infrastructure issues as barriers for rapid bus service in the Pennypack Valley. In 2010 SEPTA removed the restoration of the Newtown Line from its Capital Program. If other recent rail restoration projects are any indication, the total cost will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars which means it would be competing with several other "mega-projects" for dollars in Southeastern Pennsylvania. In that light the creation of even an interim trail will be a bargain.

You can help support Build Our Trail efforts by liking their Facebook page, signing their petition, and following them on Twitter. To find out more about volunteer opportunities contact them at