Blog Archives

16 Days Until the 2015 Summit for Smart Growth – Join Our Fabulous List of Sponsors

RenewLV’s Biggest Event of the Year is only 16 Days Away.

Show Your Support by Joining our Fantastic List of Sponsors.

We need you in the room! You’re invited to our 3rd Annual Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities on Dec. 4, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel in Allentown. Register now to guarantee your seat at the table.

The 2014 Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities at Hotel Bethlehem

We are actively lining up sponsors for the 2015 Summit. Becoming a sponsor shows your support for smart growth and sustainability in the Lehigh Valley. It’s also a unique opportunity for exposure for your firm among the region’s leaders. It’s not too late to list your organization at one of these levels:

Sustaining Sponsor: $5,000

  • One prominently placed banner at event entrance
  • On stage recognition
  • Corporate promotional table in reception area
  • Event signage (group and individual)
  • Logo in program and promotional material
  • Recognition in media/social media coverage
  • Six (6) tickets to the event (table with recognition at table)

Partner: $2,500

  • On stage recognition
  • Event signage (group and individual)
  • Corporate promotional table
  • Logo in program
  • Recognition in media/social media coverage
  • Four (4) tickets to the event

Contributor: $1,000

  • Signage (group)
  • Logo in program
  • Recognition in media/social media coverage
  • Two (2) tickets to the event

Community Supporter: $500

  • Signage at event (group)
  • Logo in program
  • Recognition in media/social media coverage
  • One (1) ticket to the event 

Join our 2015 Sponsors!

To sponsor this event, call us at 610-893-1060 or email us at

For more information about the 2015 Summit, our nationally recognized Keynote Speakers, dynamic line up of panelists or to register – click here

About RenewLV:

Renew Lehigh Valley is a non-profit organization committed to promoting smart growth and smart governance in order to revitalize our core communities, preserve open space, and establish an economically and environmentally sustainable foundation for our region’s future growth.



The Balancing Act of Passenger and Freight Rail

The City Block posted some weekend reading that I did not get to read until today — but it’s worth sharing since it provides a briefing on one of the biggest challenges of establishing new passenger rail systems: working with freight rail companies.

The blog post discusses the tension between freight rail and passenger rail in America. Many freight companies have been cautious about allowing passenger rail on their lines, for fear of slowing down business deliveries (due to the frequent stops that passenger rail usually has to make). Here’s an excerpt that gets at the core of the matter:

One core issue is defining the best balance between public and private interests.  America’s railroads are private enterprises, and back in the day where they dominated all travel and enjoyed de facto monopolies on various markets, they were regulated accordingly.  As transportation infrastructure financing shifted towards public funding (such as the interstate highway system), the regulatory structure did not evolve to meet the new realities. The current debate is essentially one of re-defining the proper roles for each of the partners in this mother of all public-private partnerships.

How can passenger rail and freight rail come together to be effective and efficient? What sort of incentives might convince freight rail companies to share its lines with passenger rail? Let me know your thoughts.

Tune in to 88.1FM WDIY Tonight @ 6

Tonight on WDIY, Alan Jennings will host a segment on transportation and land use in the Lehigh Valley. The one-hour segment, airing from 6-7pm, will include four guests who will speak about the links between transportation and land use, and the importance of this linkage to the Lehigh Valley. Further, they will discuss how the Lehigh Valley can move forward on a multimodal approach to transportation that is both environmentally and economically sustainable– encouraging development while preserving the regional assets that make the Lehigh Valley unique.

From 6-6:30pm Jennings will host Representative Bob Freeman and PennDOT’s District 5 Press Officer, Ron Young. For the second half of the show, from 6:30-7pm, we will hear from Deana Zosky, co-chair of RenewLV’s Board of Directors, and Steve Schmitt, Executive Director of the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation.

Be sure to tune in to 88.1 FM WDIY tonight at 6! This segment will address many of the issues and questions that will be the focus at the Regional Transportation Forum on April 19th, 6:30-8:30 pm, at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem. Find out more about the event at our event page, and sign up online!

My Dad, the Rail Enthusiast

You could say that my father, Bob Dietrich, was born with a love for rail. Originally hailing from Omaha, NE, he relocated to the New Tripoli-Kempton area with his parents at a young age. He traveled to his Slatington-based school by train, and when it came time for him to serve in the army, he arrived at his departure “stop” by train as well.

He made sure to spend his vacations on a passenger railcar, taking trips in the coal region and up the White Mountains in New England. But he always returned to the Berks-Lehigh Valley area to make sure that the local trains were running and alive.

At times, this involved a great deal of work and advocacy on his part. He organized dinners and fundraisers, and assisted in track work (which was in dire need of repair). But his determination and focus on local rail often paid off, and he was able to witness the arrival of the diesel electric Whitcomb locomotive in Kempton during his lifetime (the same kind that was used in Europe during World War II, and then worked in two Gulf Oil refineries).

Train in Kempton

His love for trains flooded over to his home life, where he had an affinity for model railroading.  He collected all sorts of model railways, too many to list all here (just to name a few: HO scale, N Scale, double-door boxcars, and  steam generator, among others).

Just a peek at model railroading

Every Christmas included his model railroads running underneath the tree, and he continued this tradition even until he was 83 years old.  The entire basement was turned into a wonderland of trains running through the alps and cities in Europe, with a intricate network of tunnels, multiple rails, turn-tables and the like.   And, of course, the bookshelves held multiple books on the topic of rail.

Can you guess what this is? It's a snow plow!

Politically and socially aware, he was disappointed when his beloved President (and Army-Chief) Eisenhower chose to fund a nationwide network of roads and highways instead of rail. He really saw this moment as the catalyst for America’s love affair with driving. Moreover, he was very put off by the strong lobbying of the rubber industry that pushed rubber for tires of cars, and thought that rail was placed at a disadvantage within national politics. His support for rail was unyielding.

Bob loved all rail, from the trains in the mid-west to the high-speed rail in Germany and Austria. It was this passion that made him adamant about keeping rail in the Lehigh Valley alive! It is for this reason that I have made a donation to RenewLV in honor of my Dad’s memory, as a way of continuing his dream that passenger rail would remain within the region. If he were still here today, he would applaud the work RenewLV is doing and would proudly encourage them to continue working on bringing rail back to the Valley.

Happy Hope for High Speed Rail

The White House announced details of the funding for high speed rail development and passenger rail improvements today.  This is a happy step forward, although I can’t help but feel a little sad that the Lehigh Valley is not included in this first step.

More information can be found here and a nice analysis from the Transport Politic blog is available here.

UPDATE for PA Passenger and Freight Rail Plan

Rail PlanLast week, I posted a brief report on PennDOT’s Intercity Passenger and Freight Rail Plan, in which I noted that RenewLV was following up with project planners about electronic copies of the distributed documents. I am pleased to present the handout from the event, which includes the Vision, Key Elements, Goals, as well as an estimated timeline for the Final State Rail Plan.

Given this timeline, it looks as though the public will be able to review and comment on the draft plan in late October/Early November. Subscribe to Crossroads to receive regular updates on this project, and sign up as a supporter on our Join Us page, making sure to click the ‘Transportation’ box.

PA Passenger and Freight Rail Plan

Yesterday, I had a chance to attend the Harrisburg Open House meeting for PennDOT’s Intercity Passenger and Freight Rail Plan. The event presented the vision and goals for the rail plan in Pennsylvania for the next 25 years. In this draft plan, PennDOT put forward an ambitious vision for rail, stating that “by 2035, the intercity passenger and freight rail system [will] provide seamless transportation for residents, visitors and businesses between the various cities of Pennsylvania with convenient connections to the national transportation network.” The presentation at the open house included maps for proposed rail corridors, in addition to the criteria list that is being used to determine the corridors. The open house was part of a series of public meetings that PennDOT and the project’s consultants are holding across the state, as a means of receiving input on the draft plan. That is, the presentations at these meetings were not THE finalized plan, but were meant as an opportunity to provide feedback and potential revisions. (Attendees were even given a chance to actually draw corridors onto a map).

On the big picture scale, the plan aims to identify possible service enhancements, priority investments, performance measures, and funding mechanisms. One of the striking features (at least for me) of the plan elements and proposed criteria was the connection that was made between rail and land use planning. The project consultants seemed especially sensitive to those issues often addressed on this blog: transportation-oriented development, increased multi-modal access, greater mobility for all people, environmental sustainability, and land use implications. Moreover, the goals outlined in the plan touched upon the crucial link of transportation investment to economic development, in regard to both passenger rail (cost-effective access to jobs and resources) and freight rail (cost-effective transport of goods). As mentioned above, the proposed corridor maps for freight and passenger rail were still in their draft versions, but, nonetheless, a Lehigh Valley corridor was included in these preliminary plans.

Because the plan is still being revised, it has not been posted online yet, but RenewLV staff is following up with the project planners and consultants to see if we can obtain electronic versions of the documents presented at the meetings. Make sure to subscribe to the Crossroads RSS feed to receive updates on this project.

The Light Rail Economy


Passenger rail took the spotlight this the weekend after Seattle opened its first light rail, named Link, to successful ridership numbers. The project is being hailed as forward-thinking and economically fruitful for the city. Indeed, Jon Talton, veteran financial journalist for The Seattle Times, published a provocative commentary about the rail line, which boasts of the system’s financial benefits and opens readers’ eyes to some unknown facts about light rail. For instance, he mentions that “modern light rail has succeeded in every city in which it has been built,” citing auto-loving Phoenix as a surprising success story. Talton believes that rising energy costs, frustration over traffic congestion, and a distaste for sprawling developments will nudge most metropolitan areas into making smarter transportation choices and funding rail projects. Couple these reasons with evidence that rail attracts investments and business centers, and Talton’s prediction might ring true sooner than later.

However, before any big decisions are made, the question always seems to center on funding mechanisms, or “Who will pay for the projects?” While the issue of light rail is still being debated, the Obama administration has made it clear that a high-speed rail system will be a high priority over the next few years. This investment is a top administrative goal, as a recent Miami Herald article notes, since $8 billion of the stimulus funding has been allocated solely for high-speed rail projects. As reported last week, the United States Department of Transportation already received over 270 project applications from states vying for a piece of the funds. While this tremendous demand will mean that some projects will be turned away, it certainly suggests that rail is the way of the future.

Keep up to date on light rail and transportation issues by providing your information on our Join Us page.