PHOENIXVILLE — Borough Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to support the efforts of Mayor Peter Urscheler's task force to return passenger rail service to Phoenixville.
The vote came after consultant Thomas Frawley presented his findings on the question which, simply put, would allow a "demonstration project" of three trains each morning and three trains each evening for a start-up cost of about $15 million.
First presented to the task force on July 26, and subsequently to council's infrastructure committee, Frawley concludes there are “no technological obstacles to a demonstration project or permanent (rail) service” returning to Phoenixville, Schuylkill Township and King of Prussia.
Which is not to say it will be easy.
First of all, Frawley said, SEPTA and Norfolk Southern Railroad, which owns the tracks, have to be on board with the project. He said the task force has already met wirth SEPTA and has an appointment to meet with Norfolk Southern next week.
Then there's the issue of stations, as in there aren't any.
Frawly identified three potential station locations in Phoenxiville, two in Schuylkill Township and four along the Schuylkill River near to King of Prussia, the last of which would require shuttle buses to the office parks in the area to be viable.
Frawley’s report identifies the possible Phoenixville station locations as the industrial complex at 41 S. 2nd Ave.; Holy Ghost Orthodox Catholic Church or “railroad property at Bridge Street.”
In Schuylkill Township, the identified potential rail stations are at the Valley Forge Sewer Authority; or “railroad property” south of Pawlings Road.
The potential King of Prussia stations are identified in the study as two locations in Port Kennedy; the bridge construction staging site, where the Route 422 bridge crosses the Schuylkill River; or the “Mancill Mill site” further downstream.
Parking will be an important factor at all stations, because 85 percent of those who ride the train get to the station by car, although that percentage is lower in Phoenixville, where more people can walk or ride bikes to the station, Frawley said.
Overall, Frawley's one-way trip estimates show 54 rides to Norristown, 459 to Suburban Station, 19 to Temple University, 229 to Jefferson, 99 to 30th St. Station and 57 to King of Prussia. Overall, about 900 people would ride daily one-way, Frawley said.
In addition to the $15 million start-up, annual maintenance would be about $2.7 million, said Frawley, a number that does not include leasing space for the stations — which would be basic platforms — and "rolling stock," or passenger cars.
Local developer DeMutis, who spent about $40,000 to fund the study, said 1,800 daily riders is enough to justify at least the demonstration project.
"I wish you luck where others have failed before you, as I would dearly love to see train service return to Phoenixville," said Council President James Kovaleski.