The following article was in today's Moring Call:
City to buy tracks for South Side greenway
In 2007, Bethlehem will pay Norfolk Southern $300,000.
By Chuck Ayers
Of The Morning Call
April 22, 2004
Jeff Vaclavik was delivering ham sandwiches and chef salads to
employees of the Banana Factory arts center and gallery Wednesday
morning, as usual.
From his Deja Brew coffeehouse and deli on W. Fourth Street, he
walked along the Norfolk Southern railroad line slicing through
south Bethlehem to make his deliveries on W. Second Street.
He could envision the park planned for the route. It would wind
through the retail district and serve as a centerpiece for
''I cut across the tracks and I was thinking how great it will be
when it's done,'' Vaclavik said. ''A lot of people are anxiously
awaiting this .''
The wait could be over soon.
Bethlehem has agreed to buy the milelong stretch of Norfolk Southern
right of way for $300,000 in 2007, and will lease the property until
The strip would be an 80-foot-wide walking, jogging and recreation
trail called a greenway. It would run from Union Station to the Daly
Avenue bridge, passing through the neighborhood of row homes and
abandoned Bethlehem Steel parking lots between Third and Fourth
Tony Hanna, the city's director of community and economic
development, said that after years of talks with the railroad
operator, the city finally agreed to terms and expects to make an
announcement next week.
''We're going to have a big event,'' Hanna said.
He declined to give specifics about the lease, including how much
the city would pay on it.
Already the proposed greenway is having a spinoff effect. Developers
are working on a proposed Evans Street townhouse development that
would straddle the greenway.
At a meeting of the South Side Historic and Conservation District
this week, developer Robert Smith said he and his partners in CSC
Development Co. would like to build up to 20 townhouses.
An office and retail complex on Polk Street, also fronting on the
greenway, have been proposed by developer Lou Pektor.
''It creates a pedestrian space, but it also improves the value of
the abutting properties,'' said Planning Director Darlene Heller.
Once the agreement with Norfolk Southern is signed, Heller said, the
company would begin removing the tracks, ties and poles on the
property -- possibly as soon as late spring or early summer.
She said delaying purchase of the property gives the city much-
needed time to secure funding and start the planning and
engineering that will be needed to transform the rail bed.
''We have grants we are working on, and we can move ahead with some
planning and design,'' Heller said.
Rudy Husband, director of public relations at Norfolk Southern's
Philadelphia office, said the purchase won't be until 2007 because
implications that would stem from an earlier sale.
Not everyone is happy about the tracks being torn up to create the
greenway. Advocates of passenger rail service have been working to
keep the tracks in place to accommodate what they hope will be the
eventual return of rail service to Bethlehem.
''It's very, very premature to go ripping up the track,'' said Brad
Pease, a member of the local Rail Options for the Lehigh Valley,
which is part of the 600-member Delaware Valley Association of Rail
Passengers. ''That would kill everything.''
Pease and fellow passenger-rail advocate William Hubbard said that
keeping the tracks, a trolley service could run from Daly Avenue to
planned $450 million Bethlehem Works retail, recreation and
complex on the western end of the former Bethlehem Steel land.
''You could have both a greenway and a tourist trolley if they don't
pull up the track,'' Hubbard said.
Husband said taking out the rail lines wouldn't necessarily preclude
passenger service. It's possible, although difficult because of
regulations, to use the freight lines that run through the South
Side from northern New Jersey to Chicago.
''Passenger trains can operate on those tracks,'' Husband said.
Vaclavik, however, is happy that plans for the greenway are coming
together. ''Everybody walks past there and imagines what it's going
to look like when it's done,'' he said. ''It's going to look cool.''
The EPRY had not made a run in about a week until yesterday. There were 3 covered hoppers from Fresco with a green box car on the north end and a red one on the south end sitting on the Telford siding for about a week. Today there was another green box car sitting there, but it did not appear to be the same one as last week, so it must be a new inbound.