Report says Reading-Philadelphia rail service would face initial costs of more than $800 million

PennDOT study notes significant hurdles facing proposed 59-mile passenger operation
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A Pennsylvania Department of Transportation study of a proposed Philadelphia-Reading passenger rail operation estimates the 12-station, 59-mile service could attract up to 6,400 passengers daily, but notes several significant issues that must be addressed while laying out five steps that will be necessary to determine the concept’s feasibility.

The report, released last week, notes that between Reading and Norristown, the service would use an active Norfolk Southern route and would need the railroad to be a “willing party” to negotiate access, improvements and fees; that the Reading-Norristown portion is not electrified, which would complicate equipment decisions; and that the SEPTA route between Norristown and Philadelphia is heavily used and might not be able to accommodate additional trains. The report estimates capital costs to start the service could reach $818 million.

The critical steps to determine the future of the proposal, the report says, include a detailed infrastucture and service feasibility study; a Norfolk Southern operational feasibility study; development of local support and funding; preparation of design and environmental documents; and completion of a preliminary memorandum of understanding between Norfolk Southern, the operator (SEPTA or another entity) and the project sponsor who is arranging funding.

The report uses 2030 as a projected start-up date but notes that obtaining funding, in particular, can be a lengthy process which could alter the project schedule.

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