PHOENIXVILLE, PA — A massive new passenger rail proposal that would link New York City with Philadelphia and the Route 422 corridor in southeastern Pennsylvania out to Reading is taking shape. Gov. Tom Wolf is working with Amtrak officials to help realize the project, which has gone through countless iterations over the past several decades.
Officials are hopeful the rail, which would make three daily round trips between Reading, Philadelphia, and New York, would be a boon to the regional economy and improve growing traffic concerns on the Route 422 corridor.
“Amtrak is ready to do its part and has created a forward-looking vision for train service throughout the northeast,” Gov. Wolf said. “A vision that is good for jobs, good for the economy, and good for the climate.”
Eight of the proposed 16 stops on the route are in southeastern Pennsylvania. From New York’s Penn Station, the route would progress through several stations in North Jersey to Trenton, then proceed to existing stations at Cornwall Heights in Bucks County, North Philadelphia, and 30th Street Station, before hitting new stops in Norristown, King of Prussia, Phoenixville, Pottstown, and Reading (a full list of station stops is included below).
Amtrak Has Been Aboard The Philly-To-Reading Train
Amtrak made the proposal to bring back rail service long before the recent conference.
In a statement of its vision, Amtrak said it was ready to invest in the proposed new stations.
“Reading and Philadelphia are only 60 miles apart but the destinations have not been connected by passenger rail service since 1981,” Amtrak noted in support of its proposal. “The proposed route will add frequencies along the Northeast Corridor between New York City and Philadelphia and connect Reading to Philadelphia with five stops on the corridor.”
Amtrak also pointed out how the additions would drive local economies, bringing $54 million annually. The new route would connect over a dozen universities and over fifty Fortune 500 companies and connect to services on the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak’s national network, SEPTA, Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road, and New Jersey Transit. These new rail connections would improve mobility for underserved communities and provide reliable and efficient transportation to education and employment opportunities in the region, Amtrak’s statement said.
Amtrak’s reasons for a route into Berks County begin with Reading’s population growth of over 15 percent in the past two decades. The Greater Reading population is over 700,000 residents, making it the fifth-largest metro in the state of Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2000, Reading has added 35,000 new jobs to the economy. New York City and Philadelphia have added 750,000 jobs and 100,000 jobs in the same period, respectively, according to Amtrak’s proposal.
Another big piece of Amtrak’s proposal is the environment. As the New York – Philadelphia – Reading corridor continues to grow, the need also grows for more sustainable transportation alternatives.
“Due to the short distance, there are few alternatives to driving between the cities, leading to traffic congestion on Interstate 76 between Philadelphia and Reading and on Interstate 95 between Philadelphia and New York City. In early 2020, Philadelphia reported the worst traffic congestion in its history,” Amtrak said.
Amtrak reporters over 250,000 people commute into Philadelphia each day. According to IRNX’s 2020 study, the average Philadelphian lost 94 hours, in 2020 alone, sitting in traffic, costing over $1,300 a year in fuel expenses.
All Proposed Station Stops
- New York Penn Station
- Newark, NJ
- Newark Airport, NJ
- Metropark, NJ
- New Brunswick, NJ
- Princeton Junction, NJ
- Trenton, NJ
- Cornwell Heights, PA
- North Philadelphia, PA
- Philadelphia William H. Gray III 30th Street Station, PA
- Norristown, PA (NEW)
- King of Prussia, PA (NEW)
- Phoenixville, PA (NEW)
- Pottstown, PA (NEW)
- Reading, PA (NEW)
A New York to Philadelphia to Reading Amtrak service would create new connections between major metropolitan cities, medium-sized cities, and colleges and universities, Amtrak pointed out. Students, their families, faculty, and staff could avoid traffic between destinations and likely find greater productivity or relaxation while they travel, Amtrak said.
Colleges and universities served by the New York – Philadelphia – Reading corridor include:
- City Universities of New York (Total Student Population: 275,000)
- CUNY – The Medgar Evers College (Student Population: 5,800)
- St. John’s University (Student Population: 21,000)
- New York University (Student Population: 51,000)
- Fordham University (Student Population: 15,000)
- Columbia University (Student Population: 31,500)
- Villanova University (Student Population: 11,000)
- Temple University (Student Population: 39,500)
- University of Pennsylvania (Student Population: 25,000)
- Drexel University (Student Population: 25,600)
- St. Joseph’s University (Student Population: 8,500)
- University of Valley Forge (Student Population: 600)
- Ursinus College (Student Population: 1400)
- Albright College (Student Population: 2,400)
- Alvernia College (Student Population: 3,000)
Amtrak executives joined the governor on Sept. 10 to go over the newly released Amtrak vision for the Northeast Corridor and the proposed enhancements to Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure.
In the recent conference were Amtrak President Stephen Gardner, Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-8th), Allentown Deputy Mayor Leonard Lightner, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, and Jim Gerlach, Greater Reading Chamber Alliance President and CEO.
Cartwright, from the Scranton area, serves on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and is the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science, where he oversees more than $70 billion in annual federal spending. He is also the Vice-Chair of the Financial Services & General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.
Wolf expressed a hopeful attitude that state and federal efforts can make the changes needed to meet transportation needs. “With federal leaders at the helm who understand the importance of investing in the future of our country’s transportation infrastructure, we have an opportunity before us to build a transportation system that will meet the needs of the 21st century.”
Amtrak currently runs two commonwealth-supported routes in Pennsylvania: Keystone and Pennsylvanian. In fiscal year 2019, there were 1.8 million riders between these routes. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor vision proposes three new services in Pennsylvania. Amtrak estimates there would be 1.3 million riders annually by 2035, with the services contributing $200 million in annual economic impact and $6 billion in incremental economic activity from capital investments, based on a projected capital investment needed of $2,700 million.
“Amtrak’s plan for expansion will improve equity, accessibility, and reliability in transportation and that’s exactly what our commonwealth needs to continue growing and thriving,” said Wolf.
The Governor said, “We need state-level transportation solutions to match this federal leadership so we can build and sustain this vision. I am pleased to support this plan which would expand services to many more Pennsylvanians, strengthen local businesses, the regional economy, and the commonwealth as a whole.”
Amtrak’s Other Expansions and Changes
The proposal calls for three new service lines and expansion of two existing services:
- New service between Reading – Philadelphia – New York (three daily round trips);
- New service between Scranton – New York (three daily round trips);
- New service between Allentown – New York (two daily round trips);
- Expand Keystone service between Harrisburg – Philadelphia – New York from 12 daily round trips to 17 daily round trips, and reduce trip times by increasing Harrisburg – Philadelphia speeds to 125 mph; and,
- Expand Pennsylvanian service between Pittsburgh – Philadelphia – New York from one daily round trip to two daily round trips, with one round trip extended to Cleveland.
Nationwide, Amtrak’s vision proposes key improvements on 25 existing routes, adding 39 new routes, and bringing service to more than 160 new communities.
For more information on Amtrak and their proposed enhancements, visit their website here. Information on how Pennsylvania has invested and continues to invest in its existing passenger rail services is on its Plan the Keystone site.
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