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Montco Commissioner: Proposed Pennsburg Trail Doesn’t Make Sense
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Following a recent tour of the path of a proposed multi-purpose trail in Pennsburg, a Montgomery County commissioner has asked the Planning Commission to reconsider a plan to implement a path through the borough. According to Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence, the proposal doesn't make sense.

            On Monday, Lawrence announced that he has directed the commission to take another look at the proposed conversion of a portion of the old Reading Railroad line to a trail as part of the county's Rails to Trail program. The commissioner said he expects to hear from planners by the end of the year since the decision will impact the plan by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to replace a bridge on Main Street in the borough in 2022.

            "I want to understand what the options are for this spur, and where this one ranks," he said during a telephone interview. "For this to remain, I would have to be convinced that this is the best option."

            Last week, Lawrence visited the bridge, near the intersection of 11th Street with Pennsburg Mayor Charles Shagg, council President Diane Stevens, other municipal officials and one business owner who would be impacted by the proposal.  On Dec. 8, borough officials also attempted to display the impracticability of converting the former rail line by stopping at a private driveway off Eighth Street at the former location of Ritchey's Paving Company and an apartment.

            From there, the tour shifted to the lot in the 200 block of Pottstown Avenue – near an active rail line – where the proposed trail would end. The current plan to replace the bridge, and improve the sightline for drivers by reducing the height of the roadway by 10 feet, allows for future pedestrian and bike access along the former path of the tracks.

            Development of this path – currently identified as a line on a map – is not imminent, according to Bill Hartman, an open space section chief with the county planning commission. He explained during the most recent tour that the inclusion of a tunnel underneath the structure was intended to provide the county planners with options.

            Ed Reed – the owner of Reed Signs, located at 1050 Main St. – expressed concerns to Lawrence about how the county would manage potential issues of loitering on the trail. Reed previously stated the county's reluctance to relinquish a portion of the track-bed near the bridge, abandoned nearly 50 years ago, has prevented him from adding 10 additional parking spots.

            Lawrence, an avid user of the county's trails, described one potential fix as planning to develop the trail along the Macoby Creek. Since July, municipal officials have advocated rerouting the connection from 11th Street in Red Hill, along the creek to the Pennsburg Nature Preserve, located off East 5th Street.

            Approximately 1,700 feet of paved multi-use trails, utilizing the abandoned Perkiomen Railroad right-of-way, have already been constructed in Red Hill Borough. The segment extends from East 8th Street to the Red Hill/Pennsburg boundary and is approximately 650 feet from where the continued trail – intended to accommodate pedestrian and bike access – would cross below the newly constructed bridge, according to an Aug. 27 letter from Hartman to Pennsburg officials.






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