Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

First phase of Newtown Rail Trail opens in Bucks

- By Jeff Werner jwerner@buckslocal­news.com

Government officials representi­ng Bucks and Montgomery counties joined regional community groups and trail enthusiast­s Wednesday to celebrate the opening of a mixeduse pathway joining trail networks in the two counties.

Standing next to the former Southampto­n Railroad Station where passengers once caught the train to either Newtown or Fox Chase, the Commission­ers cut the ribbon on the new 10 to 12 foot wide path built on the former Fox Chase-Newtown SEPTA rail line.

Stretching for two and a half miles and costing in the neighborho­od of $3.1 million, the first phase of the Newtown Rail Trail begins at the county line and reaches north to Tamanend Park in Upper Southampto­n and ending temporaril­y at Bristol Road.

In Montgomery County, the Pennypack Trail picks up where the Newtown Trail stops and continues south for more than six miles to Rockledge Park. Future plans will extend the trail to SEPTA’s Fox Chase station in 2023.

“This project is an example of what can happen when people put aside partisansh­ip and work together,” said Bucks County Commission­er Chair Bob Harvie. “It’s a great example of cooperatio­n between government­s, agencies, non-profits and neighbors.”

Design for the project was funded by the Pennsylvan­ia Department of Transporta­tion’s Act 13 Marcellus Legacy Fund, Montgomery County and the William Penn Foundation. And constructi­on was funded through PennDOT’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program.

Commission­er Diane Ellis-Marseglia gave shout-outs to county and township staff “who stuck with this” despite initial opposition, local officials “who had the courage to vote for this” and most of all the Circuit and all the volunteers “who pushed to make sure this happened. I am sure we are going to have a lot of people enjoying this for many years to come.”

Together, the trails are part of the Circuit Trails network, an 800-mile system of multi-use trails already in place or in the planning stages throughout the Delaware Valley.

“We are excited to celebrate the connection of our two counties through the Pennypack and Newtown Rail Trail,” said Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commission­ers. “Montgomery County has made investing in our trails a priority, and the Pennypack Trail is no exception. We have worked for over a decade to not only extend, but also improve the safety and accessibil­ity of this trail for all users. To see where we are today is truly a testament to the work of both the Montco and Bucks teams to get this project to the finish line.”

Montgomery County Commission­er Ken Lawrence noted that the Pennypack Trail is among the county’s most popular, attracting more than 350,000 visitors last year. “Completing the Montco section of the Pennypack Trail has not only enhanced the experience for trail users in Montco, it also serves as an important connection south to Philadelph­ia.”

Donna Elms, delivering remarks from State Senator Maria Collett who was unable to attend, said both counties “have worked tirelessly to get us to this point. And this is only just the beginning.”

Collett recently secured an $850,000 state grant to help extend the trail further into Bucks County.

Evan Stone, the director of the Bucks County Planning Commission, hearkened back to Promontory Point, Utah in 1869 when a golden spike was driven into the ground marking the completion of the first interconti­nental railroad.

“The symbolism and significan­ce of that event is not lost with me as we now join east with west and forge a new connection upon this historic rail bed that lies just beneath us,” said Stone.

Stone announced that the county has already received $2.8 million, including $1 million secured by Congressma­n Brian Fitzpatric­k and another $800,000 in state funding through the efforts of State Sen. Maria Collett, to extend the trail into Northampto­n Township where it will connect with the county’s Churchvill­e Nature Center.

According to Stone, the project is already in the design stage and could be under constructi­on in about a year.

Future phases will extend the trail west through Northampto­n Township and smaller segments of Middletown and Newtown townships to Newtown Borough with an eventual connection to the Delaware Canal Towpath in eastern Bucks County.

Patrick Starr, vice chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition, took a moment to applaud the inter-county cooperatio­n that brought the trail to fruition. “This was a heavy lift. This was not an uncontrove­rsial project. But we’re all glad to see it actually happen.

“This belongs to all the people of this region,” Starr continued. “Circuit trails like this make our region more attractive to live and to do business.”

Starr added that this year has been a great year so far for trail openings.

“With the three plus miles opening today that will bring us to more than 370 miles of built circuit trails in our region,” with a goal of opening 500 miles of circuit trails by 2025.

“It’s an ambitious and lofty goal. We have four constructi­on seasons to go . We think there’s a way to get that done,” he added.

“This trail is 15 miles all the way down to the Delaware River. It will connect there to the East Coast Greenway. Ultimately you could go from here to Maine or Key West. Think about that,” he said.

“I also want to congratula­te Bucks County for having the vision for connecting this trail all the way through Bucks County to the Delaware Canal. We think that’s a great vision and we hope you pursue that,” he said.

“With that said, trails are first and foremost local. I am happy for the residents of this area that you have this facility for taking a walk, for biking, strollers, and more,” said Starr.

 ?? ?? Bucks and Montgomery county commission­ers join regional community leaders and trail enthusiast­s in cutting the ribbon on the first phase of the Newtown Rail Trail in Southampto­n.
Bucks and Montgomery county commission­ers join regional community leaders and trail enthusiast­s in cutting the ribbon on the first phase of the Newtown Rail Trail in Southampto­n.
 ?? ?? As a memento of the occasion, the commission­ers received a “golden” spike.
As a memento of the occasion, the commission­ers received a “golden” spike.

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