Newtown News Update


Welcome to the September, 2019, issue of Newtown News Update. Back issues and subscribing information can be found here.  If you do not wish to receive further updates, please use the "Unsubscribe" link at the bottom of this email. The opinions expressed here are solely the those of John Mack and do not reflect the opinions of any other person or entity.

The Bardo Road Bridge in in Columbia County is for sale. It or something like it may be relocated to Newtown Creek.

Newtown Creek Coalition Proposes a NEW Pedestrian Bridge

At the September 16, 2019, "Work Session" meeting of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, Mike Sellers, a member of the Newtown Creek Coalition, invited the Township to join in a project to construct a pedestrian bridge over the Newtown Creek in a partnership with the Borough of Newtown and the Coalition.

The prospective site for the bridge would connect Sycamore Street in Newtown Township with Frost Lane in Newtown Borough (see the map below). The location is unique by virtue of its history as part of the route of the Bucks County Interurban Railway, which operated a trolley line between Bristol and Doylestown until it was terminated in 1923. There was a trolley bridge over the creek and piers for the old bridge structure still exist, although it is not known if these piers can be used for the new proposed bridge.

This map shows the location of the proposed bridge.

The project, as it was explained to me in a personal tour of the site, would include an elevated walkway from Edgeboro Drive to the actual bridge. This is necessary because there is a storm water drainage ditch that runs from Edgeboro Drive to the Creek.

With all of the new restaurants that are opening up in Newtown Township (Harvest Grille, Turning Point, etc.), some residents feel the need for better access from North State Street/Edgeboro Drive to the Sycamore Street area.

“This bridge needs to happen!," said an anonymous respondent to an online questionnaire. "It’s the missing link of the borough. Without the bridge it currently takes an extra 30 minutes (round trip) to walk to all the businesses on the other side of the proposed bridge. That extra time, more often than not, is the reason for not walking over there (life is busy!) The businesses on the other side would benefit tremendously.”

Other people want to see other "bridges" built. Newtown Township resident Sharon Houser said “overall I would like to know more about costs but the benefit doesn’t seem to really help township taxpayers rather it appears more beneficial for borough residents. I would prefer better walkability measures for Tyler Walk residents into the township vs. this project as that would seem to benefit a much greater number of residents.”

Other Bridges Exist, But…

There are other bridges over the creek that allow pedestrians to cross. So, why is another bridge needed or desired?

Mr. Sellers pointed out that these other bridges – including the nearby bridge at Jefferson Street – only have one-sided pedestrian crossings. "It's particularly difficult for bikers, walkers, or for people with strollers to get across," said Sellers.

There is a small wooden pedestrian bridge a few hundred feet south of Frost Lane where North State Street turns into Edgeboro Drive. That bridge is currently closed for safety reasons. It is entirely on private property located in Newtown Township.

"Ever since that bridge over the creek was closed shortly after we bought our house," said a Newtown Borough resident, "it has restricted access back to the Sycamore Street area. If we could restore the bridge it will be a lot safer and more convenient for borough residents to access those shops and shop local. It also could make the area of North State Street/Edgeboro Drive more desirable from a real estate perspective," said the resident.

Not too long ago I was invited by Nicole Rodowicz and Marv Cohen - who are members of the Borough Council - to look into repairing the bridge. But that option wasn't pursued any further due to the inability to contact a property owner.

Who Pays For This?

In his presentation, Mr. Sellers noted that PennDOT has a warehouse full of old disassembled bridges that can be purchased for as little as $1. However, there are real costs associated with transporting and reassembly of these bridges.

Some residents with whom I have communicated have some ideas for reducing these costs. One suggested treating it like a barn raising. “For example, someone here may know someone with access to a flatbed tractor trailer," she said. "Try to get local businesses to fund hiring people to load and unload the bridge parts.”

At the Work Session it was suggested that grants could be sought to cover some of the costs and the Township could seek “in-kind” services from professionals such as engineers, etc. Of course, most grants will not cover the total costs involved and as we know there is a lot of competition for grant money.

With regard to “in-kind” services from professionals, I believe that would be very problematic as it could be viewed as a conflict of interest or even a form of “Pay-to-Play.”

Other Noteworthy Resident Comments

“As a township resident who used to utilize the wooden bridge that is now closed for safety reasons, I am delighted at the thought of a new pedestrian bridge," said Newtown Township resident Erinn Demskis. "Auto traffic in town has increased significantly over the years, and we need a safe way for pedestrians and kids on bikes to access all the wonderful restaurants and shops in town. Our current shared auto and pedestrian bridges simply are not the safest way for pedestrians to travel. Putting pedestrian safety first, will help to bring back some of the old town charm that Newtown has always strived for. My family lives within a three minute walk of this proposed site, and I am 100% for it.”

“Also look to expand Frost Lane to include safe pedestrian and bicycle traffic between the proposed pedestrian bridge and the current terminus of the Newtown pathway at Frost and Andrew Drive," said an anonymous respondent.

“We live on Merion Dr and currently have to drive into town to frequent the local businesses," said an anonymous respondent. "Not the end of the world but you would think living not even 1 mile away as the crow flyie I should be able to walk into town, instead you have to go out of your way and backtrack to get to some of the places you want to go to.”

What Do You Think?

The Board of Supervisors did not make any decisions at the Working Session. Consequently, Mr. Sellers was asked to come before the Board at a future regular public meeting to present his proposal again so that a formal decision can be made.

Understanding that many residents may not be able to make this meeting, I invite you to respond to my online questionnaire to give me your opinion of this proposal. All responses will be confidential unless you give permission to use your name.

Give Me Your Opinion: Are You For or Against This?

You can also listen to Mr. Sellers' September 16, 2019, 16 minute presentation here.

John Mack