Major improvements and upgrades are on track for five train stations in Chester County to better serve commuters, rail riders and residents.
Paoli, Exton, Downingtown, Coatesville and Parkesburg are all on tap to get new or significantly upgraded train stations, as PennDOT and SEPTA is planning station improvements to accommodate the anticipated surge in ridership that will result from faster travel times and more efficient trips.
Amtrak is in the process of upgrading its rail system so that trains can travel at up to 125 mph. In fact, in September workers are expected to complete construction of a new bridge in Lancaster, thereby eliminating the last at-grade railroad crossing between Chester County and Harrisburg and setting the stage for Amtrak to increase its top speeds from 110 mph to 125 mph.
Ultimately, with these and other improvements officials say riders will have access to significantly improved travel times such as Downingtown to Philadelphia in 30 minutes, Exton to the state capitol in Harrisburg in about an hour, and Paoli to New York City in about two hours.
Faster travel times mean more riders and that is why PennDOT continues to seek input from the public on the coming train station upgrades. They are as follows:
Paoli is the busiest regional rail station west of Philadelphia with a ridership of 175,000 in 2013. Over the last several years stakeholders in Tredyffrin agreed that the new Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center should be located at the site of the existing station but with far better pedestrian and vehicular access including a parking garage. Specifically, extending Darby Road north of Lancaster Avenue will significantly improve access to existing and future parking lots.
On July 14, consultants presented Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors with their recommendations as how to make it a less-congested, more walkable “Heart of Paoli.” The recommendations are being reviewed now by township staff and will next be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors.
This station stands out in that it is not located in a downtown. But SEPTA, PennDOT, and the Chester County Planning Commission have initiated discussions about improving access to the station for bus riders, bicyclists and pedestrians. Preliminary concepts include sidewalk and crosswalk improvements along Route 100 from the station to the Main St. at Exton shopping village and construction of a bus loop at the station. Chester County’s recently approved public transportation plan specifically noted the Exton Station bus loop as a near-term goal.
Downingtown’s new train station is presently slated to be located downtown at the intersection of Route 322 and Boot Road and include better parking, a ticket office, waiting room and handicap-accessible platform. Township officials envision the new train station being part of a comprehensive redevelopment of downtown Downingtown that provides better amenities for the more than 60,000 riders that use the existing Downingtown train station each year.
A planned new train station at the Third Avenue location plus renovation of Coatesville’s existing, historic train station promises significant economic and employment opportunities for the city. Approximately one mile north of the station is a new 125-room hotel plus additional 80,000 square feet of office space under construction. Ultimately the hope is that a new station will increase ridership and convince SEPTA to again make Coatesville part of its R-5 Regional Rail route.
At meetings held several years ago Parkesburg decided that it wanted to keep its train station where it is but complemented possibly with a ticket office with indoor waiting rooms and restrooms; a 500-foot high-level platform with lighted canopy; improved accessibility to the westbound platform; expanded parking; improved pedestrian and vehicular access and strengthening connections to the central business district.
Together, these rail and station upgrades represent hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in our public transportation infrastructure. They are, without a doubt, the most significant advancement in Chester County’s public transportation system in memory. Furthermore, the upgrades present a golden opportunity for us to not only increase ridership, but also to revitalize our town centers, incorporate multi-model transportation and spur business and job growth.
If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding any of these rail station projects, please use the contact form below.