The Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority received confirmation Friday from the Federal Railroad Administration that its application to participate in FRA’s Corridor Identification and Development Program has been accepted. Acceptance enables SRPRA to access federal funds to advance the return of passenger rail service from Reading to Philadelphia and beyond, and significantly increases the likelihood that the service will be successfully implemented.
The $500,000 grant will fund the first of three steps in the CIDP. It complements approximately $1 million already committed to the passenger rail project by Berks, Montgomery and Chester Counties and a $250,000 state grant awarded to Montgomery County. A further $750,000 in Congressionally Mandated Funding previously awarded to Berks County will help fund consultant work on the rail project’s Service Development Plan.
The Corridor ID Program is not a study. It encompasses the pre-construction development of selected corridors, which includes planning, environmental review, preliminary engineering, and other corridor development activities. Selection of the SRPRA for the Corridor ID Program makes it likely that the FRA will continue to support the advancement of the Reading to Philadelphia Intercity Passenger Rail project.
“Receiving this grant is great news for the SRPRA, and importantly, for the residents and businesses along the proposed SRPRA corridor,” said Christian Leinbach, Chair of the Berks County Board of Commissioners, and Chair of the SPRA.
“The number of applicants for this grant program far outweighed the funds available, but ours is a compelling project, and truly matches the Corridor Identification and Development Program’s purpose to develop sustainable intercity passenger rail corridors across the country. Notably, it’s our pursuit of an intercity passenger rail solution proposed to be operated by Amtrak, rather than a commuter rail transit service, that makes the current effort different from previous ones and more likely to succeed.”
The Reading – Philadelphia – New York Corridor enjoyed passenger rail service for well over 100 years, until service to Reading ended in 1981. The SRPRA was officially organized in June 2022 to re-establish the rail corridor, connecting Berks, Chester, and Montgomery Counties with Philadelphia and New York. This would provide access to other communities in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington DC, and to the Amtrak national network. Monetary backing by the FRA also allows the SRPRA to begin negotiations with Amtrak and Norfolk Southern.
Marian Moskowitz, Chester County Commissioners’ Chair and SRPRA Vice-Chair noted, “Before the formation of this authority, community members from Phoenixville worked on the restoration of passenger rail for years. The creation of the SRPRA followed a year of working together as a committee and agreement on the most efficient way to restore passenger rail service to the region. While the Authority’s formation was not a guarantee that passenger rail would return, receiving this grant is another crucial step towards that reality, and is a true validation of its importance, not just to the region, but to the country?”
According to the SRPRA, restoring passenger rail service from Reading to Philadelphia opens a strong network of economic opportunities, not just to the City of Reading, but to the planned stops along the route in Pottstown and Phoenixville and to surrounding communities. Studies have shown that, in the next 30 years, the new passenger rail line is estimated to create significant economic and environmental benefits including more than $1 billion in new property developments, tremendous job creation, and reduction in vehicle congestion, specifically along the Route 422 corridor.
Ken Lawrence, Jr., Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chair and SRPRA Treasurer added, “News of our acceptance into the FRA Corridor Program is a real game-changer, and while we celebrate the fact that we have received this grant, we are also focused on what comes after that. The nine members of this Authority, along with our key partners and stakeholders, are committed to proving the operational and financial feasibility of a renewed Reading to Philadelphia passenger rail service. We have already achieved so much by working together in what must be recognized as an exceptional level of bi-partisan teamwork, and by continuing to work together we will keep this project ‘on track” until we see passenger trains rolling out of Reading towards Philadelphia once again.”
The Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority was incorporated in 2022 by the Pennsylvania Counties of Berks, Montgomery, and Chester to facilitate restoration of passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia, and ultimately beyond to New York. SPRA is governed by a nine-person board, consisting of three members from each county. Details of the Authority’s plans and accomplishments, as well as its organization and history, may be found on the SRPRA website at GoSRPRA.com.