Proposed pedestrian span planned for ‘Old Trolley Bridge Project’ in Newtown

by Gina V. Stevens

The Newtown Creek Coalition, established in 2006 by a group of residents living in the locality of Newtown Creek, joined with representatives of governing bodies of Newtown Borough and Newtown Township and initiated talks in 2010 to ascertain safe and effective improvements of the Newtown Creek Pedestrian Bridge Project. The idea is to restore the historic decaying bridge to a structure that not only preserves its heritage, but also incorporates prospective usage as the population grows.

The Newtown Creek Pedestrian Bridge Project visualizes a pedestrian bridge at the site of the Old Newtown Trolley Bridge connecting Frost Lane in Newtown Borough with North Sycamore Street at Durham Road in Newtown Township. The bridge would be approximately 120-feet long and 8-feet wide, with paved approaches on both sides.

The foundations of the original trolley bridge still exist and would be highlighted, while increasing safety to pedestrians and traffic as part of the project goals.

“The Newtown Creek Coalition began discussing concepts for what the Old Newtown Trolley Bridge could be for our community, and though the impetus to fulfill this dream ran into stopgaps during COVID, Newtown Borough, Newtown Township and our partners have now picked-up where we left off, continuing to research the possibilities for many improved means to maximize this potential gem in our area, while preserving the site,” said Michael T. Sellers, Esq., and President of Newtown Creek Coalition.

Newtown Borough, Newtown Township, and the Newtown Creek Coalition are designated partners for this project. Estimated costs to develop this plan is approximately one million dollars, and funding is actively being sought from state grants and private donations. Construction could begin as early as 2024.

“With a Non-Match Grant (or Non-Federal Match Grant) if approved, Newtown Township and Newtown Borough will receive $1 million to cover the cost for initial improvements. Fundraising becomes secondary to the larger picture. That is not to say that raising money from other donors won’t eventually come into play, but with the Non-Match Grant, we can focus on the immediacy of key plans at the top of the wishlist,” added Sellers.

Matching or “cost sharing” grants mean that a portion of this project’s costs is not paid by Federal funds. Matching funds are typically stated as a percentage of the total project cost.

“We are hoping that the Non-Match Grant will go through the approval process in Sept 2023. And if successful we can begin construction in mid-2024. Two firms that will help in this process are CKS Engineering (from the Borough,) and planners Remington Varnick (from the Township). The Newtown Borough Council and Board of Supervisors have endorsed the Bridge Project and will work together with the Borough and the Township, a very special and unique collaboration,” acknowledged Sellers. 

The bridge will supply a missing link in the extensive trail systems of Newtown Township, Bucks County, and Southeastern Pennsylvania. Project benefits will be significant, including: providing a safe crossing over Newtown Creek for pedestrians and bike riders, reduction of vehicular traffic on area roadways, lessening parking congestion in commercial areas, allowing enhanced recreational area access and creating pedestrian circulation between the residential and business districts of Newtown Borough and Newtown Township.

Included in the Grant will be the installation of new lighting, historic plaques, and engineering upgrades to the bridge approaches. Other agency assistance is slated by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), whose mission is to encourage the shared prosperity of all Pennsylvanians by supporting good stewardship and sustainable development initiatives across the commonwealth.

The DCED acts as advisors and advocates, providing strategic technical assistance, training, and financial resources to help communities and industries in places like Newtown. Other sources of funding come from Local Share Account (LSA) Statewide Program and the Multimodal Transportation Fund (MTF).

LSA money comes from the distribution of gaming revenues to support projects in the public interest. MTF dollars are meant to improve public transportation assets that enhance pedestrian safety and transit revitalization. Other April 2023 DCED/LSA monies went to a study of Newtown Borough’s sidewalks and trails, and a MTF grant allocated to Newtown Borough re: pedestrian and cyclist improvements to Frost Lane.

PHOTO CAP: The Old Newtown Trolley Bridge circa 1900

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