Trail-blazing still in planning stage

March 19, 1998


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Crime and cost were two issues raised during a meeting of Chambersburg's Rails-to-Trails Advisory Committee.

What to do with 1.6 miles of abandoned CSX railroad line between South Main and Commerce streets is the subject of a $38,000 feasibility study by RBA Group, a Harrisburg, Pa., consulting firm. On Wednesday, Jennifer L. Toole of RBA presented an inventory and analysis report, a midway point in the study.

At this point there is still plenty of rail and no decision on a trail. The tracks were supposed to be removed last year, but that schedule slipped to this summer.

Councilman Thomas Newcomer, committee chairman, said the study will determine whether the borough will move forward to develop a trail plan.


"There is such a terrible crime rate down there ... and the police haven't been able to control it," Carole Amsley said of a section in the Hollywell Avenue area. She and her husband own Amsley's Collision Services at 80 W. South St. The rear of the property borders the railroad.

"I'm certainly not going to make the claim that the trail will solve the crime problem," Toole said. She added, however, that rail-trails can reduce crime by sprucing up an area and bringing in more people.

Councilman Kevin Tanger said the borough has police on mountain bikes and a paved trail would make it easier for them to patrol. The borough also has mounted police that could patrol a trail.

Others at the meeting were concerned about liability problems for the borough and adjacent property owners if someone gets hurt on or near the trail.

The tracks run from a wooded area along the Conococheague Creek in the north, through a downtown urban area, to an industrial area in the borough's south end.

She said trails in rural areas usually close from dusk to dawn, but urban stretches often remain open around the clock, essentially becoming like sidewalks.

Fred Fox of Gaumer's Chassis Service, 599 Black Ave., asked where the money to build and maintain a trail would come from.

A portion of federal transportation funds allocated to the state must be used for biking and hiking paths, Toole said. Those grants usually require a 20 percent local match in money or in-kind services, she said.

Newcomer said the borough is not in a position to build the trail on its own since its recreation budget is running a $400,000 deficit.

"Congressman (Bud) Shuster will probably come up with some of the money to build it," he said of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman.

Toole recommended the borough not acquire the right-of-way from CSX, but allow the railroad to retain the easements. She said there's a remote possibility the railroad might one day reclaim the land for another rail line.

The cost of paving a mile of rail-trail is about $125,000, Toole said. A cinder trail would cost about half that, but maintenance would run about $10,000 a year compared to about $2,000 for asphalt.

The feasibility study, half of which is being paid for by the state, will be completed by late summer, Toole said.

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