Officials in Chester, Berks, and Montgomery counties have created the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority.
The restoration of a passenger rail line between Reading and Philadelphia took a few steps forward recently as county commissioners in Chester, Berks, and Montgomery counties authorized the creation of the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority.
The rail authority will oversee and implement restoration of the passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia. It will be supported with equal representation and funding from all three counties, starting with a $100,000 investment from each county. It will also have the power to formalize agreements, pursue funding opportunities, and partner with rail operators and state and federal transportation agencies.
The creation of the rail authority does not guarantee that the project will happen, but is a crucial next step in the process to making passenger rail service a reality.
As part of his American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden proposed increasing Amtrak’s funding by $10 billion over five years. Amtrak officials have said they would use some of that money to bring back the Reading to Philadelphia rail line.
A study financed by the Berks Alliance last year shows not only that reviving passenger rail service in Reading is financially possible and economically profitable, but has the support of Amtrak. It proposes an inter-city service utilizing current infrastructure, expanding the route out of Philadelphia to New York City and Washington, D.C. This would open up new avenues of federal funding, could be operated without annual subsidies, and could turn the passenger rail service into a profitable enterprise, according to the study
The study estimated the total cost of restoring train service between Philadelphia and Reading to be around $356 million, including paying Norfolk Southern for the right-of-way costs for its tracks, upgrades to tracks and stations, and the purchase and operation of the trains.
In an economic impact analysis of a proposed Philadelphia-Reading passenger rail route, Amtrak found that the service would generate $54 million in annual economic activity for Reading in Berks County, plus $1.8 billion from one-time investments.
The initial analysis was conducted based on three daily round trips and the addition of Amtrak stops in Reading, Pottstown, Phoenixville, and King of Prussia. It highlights benefits such as connections to over a dozen universities and over 50 Fortune 500 companies, as well as reduced highway traffic congestion.