Oct 15, 2012

Allentown's Misguided Train Plans

Up through the 1960's, Allentown's train system remained much in tack. In it's heyday, there were two passenger stations, and three commercial branch lines with dozens of individual business sidings. The WestEnd Branch ran along Sumner Ave, crossed Tilghman Street, headed west till 17th Street, and then looped back east  to 12 St. The Quarry Barber Branch ran along the Little Lehigh Creek, crossing Lehigh Street and running under the 8th Street Bridge. After crossing S. 10th Street, it proceeded west till it reached Hawk Flour Mill, where it turned north heading to Union Terrace. It crossed Hamilton Street by the current Hamilton Family Diner, and ended at the park department building, across from Birney Crum Stadium. Both these branches have been totally removed, not a track nor railroad tie remain. The third branch, which was the Old LVRR main, as opposed to the New Main, ran along the Lehigh River and crossed Front Street on a diagonal at Linden St. This branch line, although unused, still exists. One of it's main customers was Lehigh Structural Steel, under the Tilghman Street Bridge. Lehigh Structural had it's own engine to shuttle material on it's own tracks within their complex.  Although the steel fabricator closed, the parcel still has industrial tenants. Currently in Allentown there are two simultaneous plans which would misuse our railroad assets. The AEDC, headed by Scott Unger, wants to use a government grant to restore the Quarry Barber Branch to an empty building on S. 10th Street. The former plant operator never cited lack of train service as a factor in it's closing. To restore the line would cost untold millions of dollars, and require miles of track.  This is a folly which only seasoned bureaucrats could entertain. On the other hand, there is another plan by another group, to abandon the potential of the last remaining intact former branch line. The NIZ now controls the riverfront and the former Structural Steel property. Their plan is to vacate the industrial tenants, including Air Products, and convert the property into residential and light commercial, such as restaurants and gift shops. All these plans are driven by federal and state grants and tax incentives, which do not factor in Allentown's particular existing assets and long term interests. In a short sighted grab for some quick tax dollars, we would build one track to nothing, while ignoring another track and vacating an existing viable industrial site.

The photograph is from the Mark Rabenold Collection, and shows the Union Street crossing. 


Bethlehem Native said...

Has the AEDC bothered to find out who would want to operate the line, should it be restored? RJ Corman? I doubt Norfolk Southern would have any interest.

michael molovinsky said...

to my knowledge corman owns the right of way; they attempted to sell it a few years ago. the fact that they chose to scrap the track says what they thought of the potential. AEDC actually wants to go past the former metal factory, and reconstruct the switchback to their bridgeworks building, which now houses a go-cart track. little boys playing choo choo with tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a plan to me!

Adirondack Phantoms celebrated their first game in the 77th season of the American Hockey League this weekend.

At 76 games per season, only 144 more AHL games until the Phantoms finally drop the puck at the magnificent $ 177.1 million dollar Palace of Sport in Allentown!

(Comrade Carpenter needs work on how to frame things more effectively, in my opinion ... because 140 something IS smaller than 730 something and, thus, represents less of a wait)

PS - Don't believe the propaganda put out by the counter-revolutionaries and subversives regarding any alleged 'junk bond status'



Anonymous said...

Just another poor attempt by the administration to perpatrate monies that hasn't even been allocated yet, similarly to the downtown arena. The horse goes before the cart not the cart than the horse.