PHOENIXVILLE, PA — The notion of bringing passenger rail service to Phoenixville has seemingly been brought up dozens of times over recent years, and oftentimes the rumors are more smoke than fire. That does not appear to be the case with the latest proposed project, however, as the Mayor's Task Force took another important step forward recently in outlining several possibilities for new station stops.
The latest development calls for three new stops on SEPTA's Manayunk-Norristown line in King of Prussia, Schuylkill Township, and Phoenixville. The new stations would cost about $15 million. The committee charged with studying the feasibility of the project, made up of 20 local leaders and key community members, voted unanimously to approve this part of the plan recently.
"The professional planners must recognize and respond to the reality that Phoenixville is a quickly growing population center in Chester County and now has become a small city," said local developer Manny DeMutis, who is funding the feasibility study.
Developers propose connecting Phoenixville to the Manayunk/Norristown line via both the existing non-electrified Norfolk Southern freight track and via SEPTA's electrified track through the Center City Connector Tunnel. The new stations would be located along this existing infrastructure, ostensibly speeding the development process.
There are three proposed station sites in Phoenixville: the Phoenix Industrial Complex on 41 South 2nd Avenue, the Holy Ghost Orthodox Catholic Church, and a piece of railroad property located along Bridge Street.
Thomas E. Frawley is in charge of the feasibility study. Attendees at the latest meeting included representatives from both SEPTA and Chester County, indicating the seriousness with which this proposal is being considered.
The approval at the recent meeting means that the proposal will move forward into the borough's Infrastructure Committee to be presented on Aug. 17. Assuming it passes there, it will go to the full borough council for a vote on Sept. 11.
These meetings and approvals do not mean that the final project will immediately become a reality. They mean that Phoenixville is well on the way to green-lighting the project on its own end. As Mayor Urscheler noted, the process is far from over. But he believes it is a promising start.
"There are a plethora of entities involved, and before we start contacting people, we need to get an assurance that this is something that the Borough of Phoenixville wants," he said. "The Borough will have the two meetings to discuss the issues and determine if the Mayor's Task Force moves forward to secure more facts and do additional stakeholder analysis through the citizen planner process."
In Schuylkill Township, proposed station sites include the Valley Forge Sewer Authority and another railroad property further down the line.
And in King of Prussia, four sites for the station have been proposed, including Port Kennedy on the north side of the railroad, the historic Port Kennedy Station, the nearby bridge construction site, and Mancill Mill.
Organizers are hoping to use electric instead of diesel. Project manager Barry Cassidy also stressed the importance of using existing brownfield sites - previously hazardous sites that have been targeted for redevelopment and cleanups - for stations wherever possible.
"We should...enable the remediation of the properties," Cassidy said, noting financing programs like the state's Industrial Site Reuse programs and Act 13 funding, which can help make the plan a reality.
The meetings on Aug. 17 and Sept. 11 are open to the public and will be held in Phoenixville's Borough Hall.
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