Phoenixville names task force to study passenger rail service

PHOENIXVILLE >> The Phoenixville Borough Council has endorsed the mayor’s rail service task force.

Mayor Peter Urscheler named a 20-person community task force to examine the feasibility of establishing rail service.

The following people were named as task force members: Catherine Bianco, Gerri Bocella, Carol Bouche, Karl Bucas, Patrice Callahan, Ann Cummins, Conor Cummins, Jeremy Dalton, Paul Drucker, Jonathan Ewald, Brooke Ginty, Megan Inmon, Alex Teplyakov, David Meadows, Marian Moskowitz, Michael Murray, Bill Sauerteig, Edwin Soto, Lesley Snyder and Adam Supplee.

Chris Hoops will act as a recording secretary for the group and will attend all meetings and subcommittee meetings to establish a written record.

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Mayor Urscheler thanked Manny DeMutis for his interest in establishing rail service and for funding the feasibility study. Thomas E. Frawley Consulting, LLC will conduct the study. Frawley is an engineer and attorney with expertise that spans planning, engineering, procurement, start-up, operation, management, and marketing of transportation systems.

The current study will examine two alternatives. The greenline alternative would utilize diesel light rail technology to operate along public roadways in addition to using rehabilitated existing rail freight tracks and new private right-of way.

The primary advantage of the greenline is that it also serves the substantial and growing employment and residential centers in the Great Valley; the primary disadvantage is that for riders traveling between Phoenixville and Philadelphia, it would require a change of trains at Paoli. Another disadvantage of the greenline alternative is that the project would be capital intensive and would require several years to design and build.

The other alternative is commuter rail service directly to Philadelphia via Norristown. This alternative would utilize dual-powered locomotives able to operate both on the non-electrified Norfolk Southern (NS) track between Phoenixville and Norristown, and on SEPTA’s electrified track through the Center City Connector Tunnel.

The primary advantage of the commuter rail alternative is that it provides a one-seat-ride between Phoenixville and Philadelphia; the primary disadvantages are that it requires resolution of institutional issues related to access to NS’ freight tracks and SEPTA’s Norristown Line and Center City Tunnel. A significant advantage of the commuter rail alternative is that, from a technological perspective, it could be implemented quickly and at relatively lower cost.