There is apparently a new rail trail group in UST/Northampton that is interested in converting the SEPTA Fox Chase-Newtown line into a trail. This is going to be a serious problem for both communities should this obtain any sort of approval and support. Luckily, both UST and Northampton Supervisors have signed resolutions over the past several years in support of retaining the railroad as just that. Both have stated that a trail would be of little benefit in an area with almost no public transportation.
Though the line is very scenic, it also very suburban. Residents whose property abuts the railroad (particularly on Old Jordan Road/East Holland Road/Cherry Lane/Carlin Drive) have loudly stated in the past that if they had to choose, would rather have a train (there are supposedly plans to utilize a portion of the line for occasional trolley service to Tamanend Park) than a trail in their back yard. The trail would be too close in proximity to adjacent properties and will become a playground at all times. It also gives criminals easy access to high value homes (I have seen this elsewhere in suburban areas with ill-conceived rail trails).
Also, this proposed trail cannot qualify for Rails to Trails Conservancy money (none of SEPTA’s rail trails can). You will notice that all SEPTA rail trails - Cynwyd Heritage Trail, Saucon Rail Trail, Pennypack Trail – are not part of the national Rails to Trails Conservancy. They cannot be because the real estate is owned by a government entity. This will mean we have to foot the bill for the construction in higher taxes.
It will do little to relieve the unbearable road congestion. SEPTA has preserved this crucial transportation corridor for future use as a railroad. Diverting a high-grade piece of infrastructure (railroad) to a relatively low-grade purpose (trail) is like taking over an expressway to use for someone's driveway. Between Tamanend Park, Churchville Park and Springfield Lake, we are doing just fine with trails. There is no need to pull up any more track.
I strongly advise this trail advocacy group to work in conjunction with the numerous pro rail groups for a joint project which will benefit all parties. There are no known instances of rail trails converting back to railroads. The rail trail idea coupled with the continued preservation of the railroad could be considered as a single valid political issue (see my attached photo of a successful rail with trail in York County, PA).
I vote against it and will be sure to make this clear at any UST meetings. I will urge my Northampton friends to do the same and create a STOP THE TRAIL group.