HARRISBURG – State Reps. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, and Manuel Guzman, D-Berks, came together to support the federal bipartisan infrastructure deal’s passenger rail funding as a step towards realizing the restoration of passenger train service between Reading, Pottstown and Philadelphia, as well as connecting Reading to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between Philadelphia and New York City.
“Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania serve as the commonwealth’s economic engine, but we’re still held back by an outdated infrastructure,” Ciresi said. “With the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure deal’s passenger rail funding, we’re closer than ever to bringing the train back, moving our infrastructure into the 21st century, and fully unleashing the region’s economic, cultural and educational potential.”
“The restoration of passenger train service that would connect Reading to Philadelphia and New York has the potential to reshape and reimagine how our community travels to these major cities,” Guzman said. “Reading was built on rail travel, and we already have the foundational infrastructure in place to ensure reliable, affordable and streamlined transportation that will propel Reading into the future. As these discussions progress and evolve, I look forward to advocating on Reading’s behalf to make this vision a reality.”
Re-establishing passenger train service to Reading, with new stops in Pottstown, Phoenixville, King of Prussia and Norristown, is part of the “Amtrak Connects Us” initiative to expand and improve national rail service that received funding in the bipartisan infrastructure package. In recognition of Reading’s population growth and position as Pennsylvania’s fifth-largest metropolitan area, this service would connect to Philadelphia and New York City.
Although passenger rail service operated from Philadelphia to Reading starting in the mid-19th century, it was suspended in 1981 during SEPTA’s transition to an all-electric network. Since then, southeastern Pennsylvanians have relied on cars and buses to commute into Philadelphia and travel to nearby communities.
The result is that southeastern Pennsylvania and Philadelphia’s infrastructure has not been able to sustain the increasing reliance on cars and buses.
According to a IRNX study, Philadelphia was the second-most congested city in America and the fifth-most in the world in 2020. With over 250,000 people commuting into the city each day, the average Philadelphian lost 94 hours sitting in traffic, which cost over $1,300 a year in fuel expenses.
Ciresi and Guzman said they both view the restoration of a passenger rail service as the best way to alleviate this critical infrastructure issue and increase southeastern Pennsylvania’s economic growth.
With the unceasing growth of congestion due to business and residential development along Route 422, Ciresi, Guzman, and other stakeholders have been advocating strongly to the state Transportation Department for the restoration of a passenger rail service from Berks, western Montgomery and northern Chester counties to Philadelphia as a way of alleviating traffic and supporting local communities’ economies.
In January, PennDOT released a study which determined that the potential costs, operations and feasibility of a Reading-to-Philadelphia passenger rail service were fiscally feasible.
Ciresi applauded the PennDOT findings, saying that, “In addition to reducing commuter traffic into Philadelphia, the rail line would promote easier access to communities along the corridor, which would bolster dining, entertainment, educational and business opportunities to places such as Reading and Pottstown. Our underserved communities would especially profit from increased mobility options that increased rail service would provide.”
Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties formed a tri-county passenger rail committee earlier this year with representatives from each of the three counties. The committee is in the process of establishing an authority that would receive federal funding and employ staff to develop plans.
Residents with questions about the funding can contact Ciresi’s office at 484-200-8265 or https://pahouse.com/Ciresi/Contact.