Ciresi: Time is now to commit to Reading-to-Philadelphia rail service restoration

This is our opportunity. I invite you to imagine what could be possible for our section of southeastern Pennsylvania. 

The scenario: 

Despite years of road work and myriad projects on Route 422, traffic congestion and travel times have only worsened, driven by decades of continued development along the corridor.

But your friends have invited you on a daytime museum adventure in the city. With the unpredictability of highway traffic, you’re not in the mood to spend the day in your car. Instead, you forgo the vehicle and instead visit the nearby Pottstown station and take the train into Philly. 

No parking worries. No traffic concerns. No frustration. Just a convenient ride from western Montgomery County into the city to enjoy an afternoon of exploring. 

The biggest key to turning this fantasy into reality is, obviously, returning rail service from Reading to Philadelphia for the first time since the early 1980s. 

With current congestion – which will only grow – on our roads and highways, commuting by car or bus both leave much to be desired. As a former longtime commuter into Philadelphia I’m too familiar with that drive, and have heard from countless constituents who would easily trade a train ride for a traffic jam. Many of us who live and work in or around Reading, Birdsboro, Pottstown, Royersford, Phoenixville, Valley Forge, Norristown and all parts in between have long been proponents of this idea to bring back a commuter line along this historic corridor into Philadelphia.

Momentum behind this project has only grown in the past couple of years. As a recent local editorial suggested, the benefits would be substantial: reduced traffic on 422; easier commute from the Philly suburbs into the city, with added benefit of being able to board trains to other cities; and easier access to communities along the corridor, which would bolster dining, entertainment, educational and business opportunities to places such as Reading and Pottstown. 

Studies show the cost benefit analysis, investment scenarios, operational and logistical options, and the steps needed to move forward. Rail has been identified as the best solution for relieving 422 congestion. Committees have been formed to help pursue restoration of this line as local governments line up in support. 

So the proposal was already gaining steam before the Biden Administration recently announced its American Jobs Plan, which includes substantially growing rail service across the country. The plan even specifically mentioned the Reading-to-Philadelphia line

In other words, it’s time. The “excuse” train has terminated its run. Let’s get this done and enhance the vitality of our region.