Reading — March 17, 2023 — Today, a group of Democratic state lawmakers announced $250,000 in Local Share Account grant funding to study the restoration of passenger rail between Reading and Philadelphia.
In April of 2022, County Commissioners representing Berks, Chester, and Montgomery Counties voted to create the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority. The SRPRA is tasked with exploring the restoration of rail services between Reading and Philadelphia with stops in Pottstown, Norristown, and potentially others.
Passenger and commercial rail between Reading and Philadelphia dates back to the mid-1800s. In 1971, the Reading Company, more commonly known as the Reading Railroad, filed for bankruptcy. In 1976, the Reading Company sold all its assets, and passenger rail services ceased a few years later in 1981.
In the intervening years, multiple attempts to reestablish passenger rail between the two cities have failed. A report on restoring rail between Reading and Philadelphia funded by Berks Alliance and the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance found that all communities along the route would enjoy substantial economic benefits including the creation of new jobs, higher income for residents and property development opportunities.
The report’s findings and the subsequent formation of the SRPRA are the most promising steps forward since rail service ended. Additionally, a partnership between the SRPRA, PennDOT, and the Federal Railroad Association has already been established.
The funding secured by the lawmakers will support an operational feasibility study, including a safety review, to establish the full scope of services associated with the balance of freight and passenger rail along Norfolk Southern and SEPTA’s right-of-way from Reading to Philadelphia.
“People in Berks County have been clamoring for the return of passenger rail for decades,” state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) said. “We certainly have a long way to go, but thus far we have been able to work effectively across different levels of government and things are headed in the right direction. This project has the potential to completely revitalize Berks County.”
“The people in my district are big proponents of public transportation, whether it be for their daily commutes, shopping trips, or visits to family and friends,” Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery) said. “This funding brings us one step closer to a more connected, accessible region with the potential to boost local economies up and down the restored rail line, including here in Montgomery County.”
“My district is passionate about solutions that solve more than one problem, and this funding is a step in the right direction to increasing accessible, affordable public transportation, while helping local economies and uplifting our communities,” Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Delaware, Montgomery) said. “Hopefully, this study will lead to added passenger rail options connecting more Pennsylvanians in the Commonwealth.”
“Expanding the availability of reliable passenger rail travel to our region is so important to the future of our workforce and to the continued economic development of our municipalities and small business community,” Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks, Chester, Montgomery) said. “We need to ensure that all residents have access to the job opportunities and services across our region and passenger rail will greatly improve that connectivity. I was glad to work with my SEPA colleagues to support this important feasibility study.”
“Residents and businesses across Chester County stand to benefit from new public transportation options within our region,” Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) said. “With this new study, we are one step closer to creating a more inter-connected transportation system allowing more people from across Southeastern Pennsylvania to enjoy the welcoming communities of Chester County.”