MAIN STREET COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
Gannett Fleming, Inc.
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Existing Land Use .......................................2
NS Phoenixville Line ...................................4
Service History ........................................5
Physical Condition ...................................8
Alternative Alignments ................................9
Alternatives Evaluation ............................. 12
Cost Estimation ........................................ 13
Service Plans ........................................ 13
Rolling Stock ........................................ 15
Soft Costs ............................................. 18
Cost Estimate........................................ 18
Project Evaluation .................................... 19
CONCLUSION ................................................. 20
Regional Implications ................................ 20
Next Steps ............................................... 20
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 1
I N T R ODU C T I ON The “grind” of a daily commute on overcrowded
roadways through the suburbs eventually takes its toll on
Virtually all passenger rail planning concepts for Eastern
every level of the workforce. This contributes to an
Chester County have been oriented along the alignment of
unstable workforce, resulting in constant turnover of
the Schuylkill River Valley, passing from Reading to
executive, professional and technical employees as well as
Center City Philadelphia via Norristown. The river has
those in the entry-level, service and administrative ranks as
defined the traditional path of travel and commerce
individuals seek less stressful commuting options and a
through Phoenixville and the other “canal boroughs” from
better quality of life.
Colonial days. This was sufficient through the end of
commuter rail service in 1981. It may well have continued One local example of this phenomenon exists in the
merit for Center City-bound commuters who struggle daily Great Valley area of Eastern Chester County. Superior
to find their way through the congested King of Prussia highway access and the ready availability of developable
bottleneck, but not for all. land have resulted in its emergence over the past
generation as a major regional concentration of office parks
21st Century commuting patterns and work locations
and technology centers. It lies between Phoenixville and
are much more complicated and diverse. Bucolic fields
Paoli—the former a significant source of affordable
throughout the outlying suburbs have turned from
housing and home of a large potential workforce, the latter
agricultural to commercial uses, although the former farm
a transportation gateway with direct rail service to
roads leading to them are little changed. As a result, roads
Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley region as a whole.
that were never intended for heavy volumes of commuter
traffic are choked with congestion, adding time, cost and
frustration to Chester County residents.
An additional consequence of the
suburbanization of regional workplaces
is the challenge employers face in
reliably filling basic entry-level, service
and administration positions. An
extensive potential employment base
resides in Philadelphia and suburban
urban areas such as Phoenixville, drawn
to affordable workforce housing options
developed around past concentrations of
industrial activity. But the regional
transit network—predominately a radial
network oriented around the needs of a
Center City commute—offers limited
opportunities for suburb-bound
commuters. A prolonged stop-and-go
commute by automobile is the
only viable mobility option for
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 2
Line of the Norfolk Southern Railway Corporation
The employment centers of Great Valley enjoy superior
parallels PA Route 29 southward from downtown
highway access from the east and the west via US Route
Phoenixville to the north side of the Great Valley
202. But the capacity of PA Route 29—which provides
employment center—about half the distance a
primary access from the north and the south and delineates
Phoenixville-Main Line rail link would need to traverse.
the central axis of development—is frequently overtaxed
with traffic congestion. PA Route 29 and other parallel The CDC has commissioned this initial assessment of
means of access north of Great Valley are all winding two- the Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link concept in order to
lane roadways. gain a better understanding of the possible costs and
benefits of such a service. It is particularly timely to assess
Recognizing the need for viable commuting
the potential for passenger rail service on the NS
alternatives, the Great Valley developers teamed with the
Phoenixville Line as it is presently out of service. The
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
potential Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link should be
(SEPTA) starting in the mid-1980s to operate a pioneering
considered now before this irreplaceable transportation
bus service—SEPTA Route 206—that functions as a
asset is abandoned or diverted to other purposes.
“rubber-tired” extension of SEPTA Regional Rail service
at Paoli. For over two decades, this integrated bus-rail
service has provided a seamless public transit link to Great
Valley jobs for commuters living in Philadelphia and EXISTING LAND USE
Eastern Main Line communities. Other Great Valley
Study area limits for the assessment were developed to
employers operate dedicated private bus service for their
include those Eastern Chester County municipalities whose
own employees, also connecting with train service at Paoli.
residents or employers would likely be affected by the
The “Achilles heel” for these public and private bus
proposed Rail Link. An eight-municipality study area was
services, however, is their reliance on increasing congested
identified, inclusive of:
highways, which adds delay, unreliability and expense to
the operations with each passing year. Charlestown Township
East Pikeland Township
The Main Street Community Development Corporation
(CDC)—grappling with the revitalization of the historic East Whiteland Township
commercial district that is the heart of Phoenixville Malvern Borough
Borough as well as looking to enhance the quality of life Phoenixville Borough
for borough residents—has sought to identify new means
of travel in keeping with its organizational goals and more
in line with 21st Century travel needs. The CDC postulates
that a road-free connection linking Phoenixville with Great Willistown Township.
Valley employment centers could provide commuters with The full extent of the study area and these
a viable travel alternative that could potentially alleviate municipalities is illustrated in the map at the bottom of the
traffic congestion on PA Route 29. Extending that previous page. A map illustrating existing highway and
connection to Amtrak and SEPTA train services along the railroad assets for the core study area appears on the next
Main Line would further reinforce the borough’s role as a page.
regional transportation hub as well as yield other
transportation benefits. It also notes that the Phoenixville
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 3
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 4
Change in Residents per Change in Employees per
Population Square Mile Employment Square Mile
2005 2035 2005-2035 2005 2035 2005 2035 2005-2035 2005 2035
Charlestown Township 5,824 8,944 3,120 54% 465 714 2,620 3,681 1,061 40% 209 294
East Pikeland Township 6,816 9,684 2,868 42% 766 1,088 1,640 2,445 805 49% 184 275
East Whiteland Township 10,302 13,173 2,871 28% 937 1,198 26,000 34,735 8,735 34% 2,364 3,158
Malvern Borough 3,099 3,603 504 16% 2,583 3,003 2,944 3,762 818 28% 2,453 3,135
Phoenixville Borough 15,415 17,810 2,395 16% 4,144 4,788 5,000 7,236 2,236 45% 1,344 1,945
Schuylkill Township 7,637 10,612 2,975 39% 868 1,206 2,620 2,912 292 11% 298 331
Tredyffrin Township 29,073 32,778 3,705 13% 1,465 1,651 37,576 43,728 6,152 16% 1,893 2,203
Willistown Township 10,739 12,149 1,410 13% 590 668 8,346 10,198 1,852 22% 459 560
TOTALS 88,905 108,753 19,848 22% 1,056 1,292 86,746 108,697 21,951 25% 1,030 1,291
Source: Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
Present and future population and employment by ROADWAYS
municipality for the study area is provided in the above PA Route 29 serves not only as the only gateway to
table. A 22 percent increase in population is forecast for residential areas to the north and the south, but also as the
the study area communities between now and 2035. The prominent arterial route through the employment centers.
greatest rates of population growth are forecasted for the The majority of commuters arriving or departing the area
townships at the north end of study area (Charlestown, East via US Routes 30 or 202 must connect to PA Route 29 to
Pikeland, and Schuylkill Townships). access the employment centers. Traffic on PA Route 29
A comparable 25 percent increase in employment is through the Great Valley area presently averages 31,100
forecast for the study area over the same period. In 2035 as vehicles on a typical weekday.
now, about 82 percent of the study area employment lies This level of traffic will significantly increase when the
south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) in East Pennsylvania Turnpike opens a new interchange with PA
Whiteland, Tredyffrin and Willistown Townships. In Route 29 in Fall 2010. The new interchange ramps will
contrast, the greatest concentration of study area population form a intersection with Flat Road. The Turnpike forecasts
can be found in Phoenixville Borough. that the new interchange will increase average daily traffic
This dichotomy between where people live and where on PA Route 29 by 16 percent north of Flat Road and by
people work is illustrated in the maps on the next two 24 percent south of Flat Road.
pages showing land use, population density and major
NS PHOENIXVILLE LINE
employment centers in the study area, as well as location of
the Penn State University (PSU) Great Valley Campus. The NS Phoenixville Line (NS Line Segment 2588) is an
There is approximately 10.8 million square feet of unsignaled, single-track industrial track through Eastern
commercial office, flex and industrial buildings the Great Chester County. It extends 10.8 miles from Perkiomen at
Valley area at present with another 7.7 million square feet Milepost HP 25 on the NS Harrisburg Line near Oaks in
under development. Major employment centers are Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County, to
sandwiched in a narrow zone between the Turnpike and terminate in an industrial park in Devault, East Whiteland
Lancaster Pike (US Route 30). Township, Chester County. The line parallels PA Route
29 for much of its length.
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 5
SERVICE HISTORY Swedesford Road (at Swedesford Road, also
The line was originally constructed as the Phoenixville & known as “Planebrook”).
West Chester Railroad in 1883 but was known through Traffic and revenues for the Frazer Branch declined
most of its existence as the Frazer Branch of the after the First World War due to increasing competition
Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). It diverged from the PRR from automobiles and trucks. Passenger train service was
Schuylkill Valley Division main line between Philadelphia discontinued in 1928 and replaced by PRR bus services
and Pottsville at Phoenixville, west of Gay Street (PA that ran until the start of the Depression. Freight service
Route 113). It was built to service local agricultural over the branch continued, however, even as parts of the
interests as well as the Great Valley extraction industries. branch were abandoned in piece-meal fashion. Much of
The line once continued another 3¼ miles beyond its the East Whiteland Township portion of the branch
present terminus, extending roughly westward across between Devault and Foote Mineral Company in
Sidley Road and Phoenixville Pike to Conestoga Road (PA Planebrook was abandoned in the 1950s. The remaining
Route 401), then turning southward to US Route 30 where stub between Planebrook and the Main Line connection at
it turned eastward to a connection with the PRR Main Line Frazer was abandoned in the 1970s.
(now the Amtrak Harrisburg Line) in the vicinity of PA Daily freight service between Phoenixville and Devault
Route 352 at Frazer.* There was a small spur that diverged continued as the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail)
eastward from Frazer Branch immediately south of the succeeded the PRR as owner/operator of the branch. As
Turnpike at the present location of the Commons at Great part of their strategic consolidation of operations, Conrail
Valley, which crossed PA Route 29 to serve the Warner combined the former PRR Frazer Branch and Schuylkill
Company quarry at the present location of Atwater. Valley Division main line and reconfigured them to
The PRR operated passenger service over the branch connect with the former Reading Railroad Perkiomen
even though the area was sparsely populated at the time. In Branch at Oaks, thereby providing a shorter connection to
addition to the PRR stations on other lines at Phoenixville the Conrail (former Reading) main line at Perkiomen
and Frazer, stations along the Frazer Branch were located Junction and allowing for the abandonment of most of the
at: former PRR Schuylkill Division main line between Oaks
Nutt Road (at PA Route 23, also known as
“Ironsides”) Conrail undertook a significant upgrade of the line’s
Harveyville (at Pothouse and Charlestown Roads, infrastructure in the late 1980s with assistance from the
also known as “Wilmer”) Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
New ties were installed and track drainage was improved.
Pickering (at PA Route 29 near Buckwalter Road)
Grade crossing protection was also improved with flashers
Aldham (along Aldham Road)
and gates at most public highway crossings.
Devault Beaver’s (at Charlestown Road)
Sidley (at Sidley Road)
Bacton (at PA Route 401)
After construction of the PRR Trenton Cut-Off (today’s NS
Morrisville Line), the Frazer Branch was cut short and
reconfigured to connect with the new facility.
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PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 7
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 8
CURRENT STATUS obstructed and resulted in some minor washouts
Freight service continued through 2004 until the American undercutting the track. Vegetation and brush have
Sweetener Corporation—last remaining shipper on the overgrown much of the alignment.
line—ceased production at its Devault plant. No traffic has Topography and railroad rivalry more than traffic
since moved over the line. considerations led to more grade separations and other
NS, as present owner/operator, applied to the federal structures than would be otherwise typical for PRR branch
Surface Transportation Board to discontinue service over line. The most significant structures of note are:
the Phoenixville Branch from a point near Oaks to Devault. Schuylkill River Viaduct (Bridge 3.98), a 1,123
NS was careful to note that they have requested a service foot concrete arch bridge over the Schuylkill
discontinuance, not an abandonment. This action leaves River between Mont Clare and Phoenixville.
open the prospect of reviving freight service sometime in French Creek Viaduct (Bridges 4.85 & 4.95),
the future should a new customer present itself. consisting of 15 deck spans on the east approach,
There has been interest of late from other parties to use one deck span over French Creek, one deck span
the NS facilities. The CDC has proposed using the NS over the former Reading Pickering Valley
Phoenixville Line as part of new passenger rail service Branch, and 15 deck spans on the west approach,
linking Phoenixville with the Great Valley employment totaling 32 spans or 1,087 feet. The present
centers and SEPTA/Amtrak on the Main Line. A group viaduct was originally constructed with iron
known as the Valley Forge Railroad has proposed using girders in 1891and renewed in 1898 and 1913
the line between Oaks and Devault for an excursion with steel.
railroad service. Bikeway interests have also expressed Pickering Creek Viaduct (Bridge 7.50), also
interest in converting the rail line into a hiking/biking trail known the Buckwalter Road Bridge, consisting of
for recreational purposes. 15 deck spans over PA Route 29 and Pickering
Creek. It totals 625 feet in length. The present
The proposals made by CDC and the Valley Forge
viaduct was originally constructed with iron
Railroad would be compatible with NS’ expressed
girders in 1891and renewed in 1896 and 1913
intention of reviving freight service in the future as the
need materializes. The recreational trail proposal would
not. The current condition of these and other minor undergrade
structures and drains has not been assessed although they
were in continual service up until the suspension of freight
The 6.6 miles of the NS Phoenixville Line between service in 2004.
Phoenixville and the end of track in Devault was built and
The NS Phoenixville Line is a “dark” railroad without
maintained to standards of a typical branch line.
train control signals. There are six public highway
Track is constructed with wooden ties and rails ranging crossings at grade and two private crossings (one for a
from 125 to 130 pounds per year (with the exception of a private residence, one for a quarry). Different grade
½-mile track segment roughly centered on Main Street in crossing protections were provided at each crossing when
Phoenixville, which is constructed with 100-pound rail). the line was in service, as listed on the following table. All
The track generally appears to have been well-maintained active crossing protective devices were taken out of service
up to the time that service was suspended but starting to when service was suspended.
show preliminary signs of neglect. Drainage has become
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 9
Alignments were otherwise confined to follow existing
CROSSINGS AT GRADE
public or utility rights-of-way (roads, power lines, or
railroads) to simplify property acquisition and minimize
Crossing Municipality the need to demolish existing buildings.
Montgomery Av Phoenixville 5.5 Three alternatives were considered between the south
Phoenixville end of the NS Phoenixville Line and existing Amtrak and
Pothouse Rd 6.0
& Schuylkill SEPTA passenger rail services on the Amtrak Harrisburg
Line. Two of the alternative generally followed abandoned
Charlestown Rd Schuylkill 6.0
railroad rights of way while the third considered a
Schuylkill & completely new alignment. These are illustrated on the
Buckwalter Rd 7.1
Charlestown map provided on the following page.
Driveway Charlestown 8.7 Frazer Branch Alignment (Red) generally
following the original alignment of the former
Driveway Charlestown 9.3 PRR Frazer Branch to a new passenger station on
the Amtrak Harrisburg Line on PA Route 352 at
Charlestown Rd Charlestown 9.6 Frazer. The total line via this alignment would be
about 10.3 miles in length, 5.9 miles (57 percent)
Warner Ln Charlestown 9.9
of which would be on the existing NS
ANALYSIS This alternative would diverge from the NS line near
the intersection of Lee Boulevard and Spring Mill
The methodology used to assess the CDC’s Phoenixville-
Road and proceed to follow the former Frazer
Main Line Rail Link concept consisted of four parts:
Branch alignment as closely as possible.
1. Identify alternative alignments linking
Confined for the most part to present or former
Phoenixville, Great Valley job sites and Main Line
railroad alignments, no extraordinary curvature or
grades are anticipated. Trains would operate entirely
2. Evaluate the relative benefits and disbenefits of on exclusive rights of way.
Its benefits are:
3. Estimate order-of-magnitude costs associated with - It makes maximum use of the existing NS line.
the best of the alternative alignments. - It does not confront any significant grades.
4. Evaluate the cost estimate in comparison with other - It can accommodate a range of possible rail
passenger rail projects under consideration in the passenger equipment.
Delaware Valley. - Train would operate in exclusive rights of way.
ALTERNATIVE ALIGNMENTS Its disbenefits are:
- It misses most of the Great Valley employment
It was assumed that all possible alignments for the centers.
Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link would use the existing
NS Phoenixville Line to the maximum possible extent.
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 10
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 11
- It requires an additional new rail station on the - It serves virtually all of the Great Valley
Amtrak Harrisburg Line (plus Amtrak and employment centers.
SEPTA agreement to stop trains there). - It provides direct access to Amtrak and SEPTA
- It requires reassembling the former right of way train service at the Paoli Transportation Center.
through a predominately residential area and - It avoids assembly of new rights of way in
across sports fields owned by the Great Valley predominately residential areas.
Its disbenefits are:
- It requires five new bridges (over US 202,
Chester Valley Trail, US Route 30, the NS - It requires some assembly of new rights of way
Morrisville Line and the Amtrak Harrisburg (albeit in predominately commercial areas).
Line). - It requires specialized rail equipment capable of
New Alignment (Yellow) following a new operating on significant grades (five percent
maximum), through tight curves (130-foot
alignment to connect with Amtrak and SEPTA radius) and in mixed traffic.
train service at the present Paoli Transportation
- It requires three new bridges (over US
Center. The total line via this alignment would 202/Matthews Road, the NS Morrisville Line
be about 9.5 miles in length, 5.0 miles (52 and Industrial Boulevard).
percent) of which would be on the existing NS Cedar Hollow Branch Alignment (Blue)
Phoenixville Line. roughly following the alignment of the former
This alternative would diverge from the NS Reading Cedar Hollow Branch* and a new
alignment at the point where it passes beneath the alignment to connect with Amtrak and SEPTA
Turnpike and follow the public right of way train service at the present Paoli Transportation
alongside of Warner Lane and PA Route 29 south to Center. The total line via this alignment would be
Valley Stream Parkway. At Valley Stream Parkway, about 9.6 miles in length, 5.3 miles (55 percent)
the alignment would turn east and occupy the inner of which would be on the existing NS
lanes of the Parkway, with trains operating in mixed Phoenixville Line.
traffic with automobiles for about ¾ of a mile This alternative would diverge from the NS
between PA Route 29 and Swedesford Road. At alignment at southwest corner of the Commons at
Swedesford Road, alignment would continue south Great Valley and follow alignment of the former
via new but presently vacant rights of way, crossing PRR Frazer Branch across PA Route 29, then follow
over US Route 202/Matthews Road, the NS the alignment of the former Reading Cedar Hollow
Morrisville Line and Industrial Boulevard to the Branch, passing over US Route 202 on an existing
existing rail underpass beneath Central Avenue and bridge, to the alignment of the former
terminate at the Paoli Transportation Center. Reading/Conrail Chester Valley Line, now part of
The new portion of this alternative south of US the Chester Valley trail. The alignment continues
Route 202 would entail grades up to five percent and southward following existing power utility
one curve with at least a 130-foot radius.
Its benefits are: *
Like the PRR Frazer Branch spur that crossed PA Route 29, the
- It makes extensive use of the existing NS line. Reading’s Cedar Hollow Branch provided access to the Warner
Company plant where Atwater is located today and connected to
- It makes extensive use of existing highway rights Reading Chester Valley Line, which ran parallel to US Route
of way. 202 and is now the alignment of the Chester Valley Trail.
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 12
easements though residential neighborhoods to Pickering Valley Alignment (Purple) would
terminate at the Paoli Transportation Center. diverge from the NS Phoenixville Line where it
Confined for the most part to present or former crosses the former Reading Pickering Valley
railroad alignments, no extraordinary curvature is Branch, then follow that line through to Gay
anticipated. The new alignment south of US Route Street (PA Route 113) behind the stores lining the
202 would entail grades over seven percent. Trains north side of Bridge Street.
would operate entirely on exclusive rights of way. Its benefits relative to the NS Phoenixville Line are:
Its benefits are: - It provides better access to the Downtown
- It makes extensive use of the existing NS line. Phoenixville commercial district.
- It provides direct access to Amtrak and SEPTA - It reduces the overall length of any south-end
train service at the Paoli Transportation Center. alternative by about a third of a mile.
- It can accommodate a range of possible rail Its disbenefits are:
passenger equipment with respect to curvature. - It is further removed from North Phoenixville.
- Train would operate in exclusive rights of way. - In the event that plans are realized to extend
Its disbenefits are: SEPTA Route R6 service west of Norristown
over the NS Harrisburg Line, it would be more
- It misses most of the Great Valley employment difficult to connect the two rail services.
- It requires reassembling the former right of way ALTERNATIVES EVALUATION
use of power utility easements through
All three alternatives were considered physically feasible
predominately residential areas.
from an operational and engineering perspective. The
- It requires specialized rail equipment capable of
operating on significant grades (over seven most pertinent factors considered in their relative
percent maximum). evaluation are summarized in the table below.
- It requires two new bridges (over Swedesford Of the three alternatives, only the New Alignment
Road and the NS Morrisville Line). would provide service to most Great Valley area job sites
In addition to the three south-end alternatives, an and avoids impacts to residential neighborhoods. It is also
alternative alignment at the north end through Downtown the alternative with the shortest overall length. Like the
Phoenixville was identified during course of the analysis. Cedar Hollow Branch Alignment alternative, it connects to
Amtrak and SEPTA service at Paoli so no new main line
railroad station is required and it would magnify the value
Amtrak & SEPTA?
Frazer Branch Alignment Poor Frazer Yes No 10.3 miles 5.9 miles 5 None None
New Alignment Good Paoli No Yes 9.5 miles 5.0 miles 3 130 foot 4.9%
Cedar Hollow Branch Alignment Poor Paoli Yes No 9.6 miles 5.3 miles 2 None 7.3%
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 13
of upcoming public investment in a new Transportation Link during peak periods. Based on an assumed
Center at that location. It does, however, require a commercial (“average” including stops) speed of 25 miles
specialized vehicle capable of negotiating five percent per hour, it would typically take a train 23 minutes to travel
grades and 130-foot curves, as well as operating in mixed 9.5 miles between Phoenixville and Paoli.
traffic with automobiles. These disbenefits, while limiting,
CDC requested that cost estimates be developed
do not offset its significant benefits.
assuming the Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link was
For these reasons, the New Alignment alternative was constructed and service implemented in stages as follows:
selected as the basis for cost estimation and further Stage 1: Phoenixville to Devault
evaluation. The selected alternative is illustrated in the
Stage 2: Devault to Swedesford Road
map on the following page.
Stage 3: Swedesford Road to Wyeth
The Pickering Valley Alignment alternative serving
Stage 4: Wyeth to the Paoli Transportation Center
Downtown Phoenixville was evaluated but its benefits
seemed insufficient in comparison to better serving North Based on this staging plan, the heaviest passenger loads
Phoenixville neighborhoods and the opportunity to make a would not be realized until Stage 4, when the Rail Link
positive connection to a future commuter rail service on the connects to Amtrak and SEPTA train service at Paoli.
NS Harrisburg Line. The base alignment on the NS Therefore it was assumed for costing purposes that train
Phoenixville line was selected for cost estimation. consists (the number of cars in a train) would be minimal
in Stages 1 though 3.
Actual service headways, running times and consists
Rudimentary order-of-magnitude capital cost estimates are dependent on a number of factors, such as market
were developed for the New Alignment alternative using demand, track geometry and vehicle size. These
cost factors drawn from recent engineering and assumptions should be scrutinized and revalidated in
construction projects. Costs were developed for each of subsequent study efforts as more detailed information
the ten following categories recommended by the Federal becomes available.
Transit Administration (FTA) for planning studies:
10 Guideway, Track, Structures
20 Stations, Stops, Terminals 10 GUIDEWAY, TRACK, STRUCTURES
30 Support Facilities
Track requirements were based on a single-track network
40 Sitework/Special Conditions
with passing sidings at least a quarter-mile in length as
needed. Based on the proposed service plan, three passing
60 ROW, Land, Improvements
sidings would be needed for the ultimate service—one
70 Vehicles during Stage 1, another during Stage 2, and the final one
80 Professional Services during Stage 3. The terminal track configurations at
90 Unallocated Contingency Phoenixville and the Paoli Transportation Center were also
100 Finance Charges assumed to require access by two trains at one time.
SERVICE PLANS Stage 1 encompasses the existing NS Phoenixville Line.
As the line has been out of service, it was assumed that
For cost estimating purposes, a 15-minute minimum
inspection, vegetation control, spot tie replacement,
headway was assumed for the Phoenixville-Main Line Rail
drainage restoration, washout repairs and line and surfacing
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PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 15
40 SITEWORK/SPECIAL CONDITIONS
of the track will be needed. Additional super elevation
would be added to increase speeds through curves. All A considerable amount of the infrastructure budget is
trackwork between Phoenixville and Devault will be devoted to sitework given the topography traversed by the
compatible with NS standards in the event that freight alignment. Sitework elements of particular note are a new
service is restored in the future. fill segments alongside PA Route 29 over Valley Creek
(Stage 2), between Matthews Road and Wyeth (Stage 3)
Three new undergrade bridges were assumed totaling
and on rise over the NS Morrisville Line and up to Central
600 feet in length. One bridge (US 202/Matthews Road)
Avenue in Paoli (Stage 4).
would be needed in Stage 3. The two remaining bridges
(NS Morrisville Line and Industrial Boulevard) would be 50 SYSTEMS
needed in Stage 4.
A simple, check-in/check-out signal system—similar to
20 STATIONS, STOPS, TERMINALS that currently employed on the SEPTA Media-Sharon Hill
Light Rail Transit System (Routes 101 and102)—was
A total of 13 simple passenger stops with low-level
assumed for the protection of single-track segments.
platforms and prefabricated passenger shelters were
Allowances were also made for non-vital signal appliances
assumed for the ultimate system. Allowances were made
integrated with traffic signals at intersections where trains
for basic amenities (benches, signage, lighting,
operate in the street in mixed traffic with automobiles.
landscaping) and accessibility in conformance with the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Allowances were made in Stage 1 to restore and
upgrade crossing protection for all eight existing public and
Five stops each were assumed for Stages 1 and 2, two
private crossings on the NS Phoenixville Line. These will
stops for Stage 3 and one stop for Stage 4. Parking
be compatible with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
construction was also assumed to be phased in stages,
requirements in the event that freight service is restored in
ultimately amounting to 1,500 new spaces. All passenger
the future. Allowances were also made in Stage 2 to signal
stoops will be compatible with NS clearance standards in
or eliminate eight additional crossings.
the event that freight service is restored in the future.
60 ROW, LAND, IMPROVEMENTS
As the assumed number of stations is greater than the
assumed number of rail vehicles (see discussion of rolling No costs were estimated at this point for property
stock below), all costs for fare collection equipment were acquisition, or for acquisition of or access to the NS
assigned to the Vehicles category (Item 70). Phoenixville Line.
30 SUPPORT FACILITIES ROLLING STOCK
An allowance was made for one maintenance facility, The New Alignment alternative requires a vehicle capable
adequately scaled for a small fleet of self-propelled rail of:
vehicles (see discussion of rolling stock below). The entire Operating on grades up to five percent;
cost of the maintenance facility was assigned to Stage 1.
Operating around curves with radii as tight as 130
Heavy repairs and component maintenance should be
handled off-site by contract vendors to keep the size of the
Operating in the street in mixed traffic with
facility and staff to a minimum.
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 16
There is only one vehicle currently available in the
North American market capable of meeting these
performance requirements: the Gelenktriebwagen (for
“articulated railcar,” abbreviated as “GTW”) 2/6*,
manufactured by Stadler Rail AG of Bussnang,
Switzerland. Stadler GTW 2/6s operate throughout
Europe, including Italy, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands
and Switzerland. In the United States, NJ Transit uses 20
GTW 2/6s for the River LINE between Trenton and
Camden. Capital Metro in Austin recently purchased six
Greek Stadler GTW 2/6 being tested in Switzerland. vehicles for a new transit rail service.
The railcars are 102¾ feet long and operate up to 60 miles
per hour. They have a capacity for up to 200 passengers—
108 seated and 92 standing—and are fully ADA
compliant. GTW 2/6s in Switzerland routinely accelerate
from a standing stop on a six percent grade. The Capital
Metro railcars were recently certified to negotiate a 120-
foot radius curve. They are equipped with the extra
braking ability necessary to safely operate in a mixed
Stadler GTW 2/6 in service in the Netherlands.
GTW 2/6s are an example of self-propelled diesel
railcars (also known as “diesel multiple-unit trains” or
"DMUs") closely related to the Rail Diesel Cars that were
the mainstay of the Reading/Conrail/SEPTA passenger
service that ran through Phoenixville from their
introduction in 1962 until the service was abandoned in
GTW 2/6 interior from the Netherlands. DMUs move without locomotives. Since each car is
capable of moving itself, tractive effort is distributed
throughout a trainset and is proportional to its consist size.
This is in contrast to a conventional locomotive-hauled
trainset where all tractive effort is concentrated in a large,
solitary prime mover. As a result, DMUs have superior
acceleration characteristics, especially in smaller consists,
and excellent fuel economy.
Austin’s GTW 2/6 under construction in Switzerland.
"2/6" means that two of six axles on the car are powered.
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 17
FRA REGULATORY IMPLICATIONS 70 VEHICLES
The Stadler GTW 2/6 or any other vehicle compatible with It was assumed that three railcars would be needed initial
the New Alignment performance characteristics would not to meet the requirements of Stage 1. Two railcars would
be compliant with FRA regulations governing joint use of be used in used for daily revenue service, while a third car
track with freight trains. FRA regulations mandate US is rotated through maintenance and otherwise held in
standards for structural strength and other factors reserve. Stages 2 and 3 each would require one additional
pertaining to railcars so that they may safely commingle car that would also be placed in daily revenue service.
with the trains NS operates on the General System of Stage 4 would require two additional cars.
Railroads throughout the United States.
The ultimate fleet size under this scenario is seven
Several new rail systems have chosen to use non- cars—six for peak revenue service and a seventh as a
compliant railcars from foreign manufacturers that maintenance spare. This is consistent with FTA standards
conform to European safety standards—including Ottawa for spare rolling stock (15 percent).
and Northern San Diego
County in addition to
Austin and the NJ Transit
River LINE. This
approach to rolling stock
can yield economies and
flexibility. But it would
require special operating
practices in the event NS
chooses the restore freight
service over the line.
Most systems where
freight trains share tracks
with non-compliant rail
vehicles operate on the Two-car GTW 2/6 train on NJ Transit’s River LINE.
basis of “temporal separation” wherein freight trains
movements are confined to late night hours after passenger
Some new systems—such as the Portland Streetcar—
service has concluded for the day. In this manner, it is
have found it easier to maintain and secure fare vending
ensured that passenger and freight trains never have the
equipment by locating it on board rolling stock rather
opportunity to collide.
placing it unattended and exposed to the elements at
A non-compliant railcar should be a realistic option for stations. Fewer railcars are proposed for the Rail Link than
the Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link. The NS stations (7 vs. 13), therefore it was assumed that it would
Phoenixville Line was never more than an industrial track be more cost-effective to place the fare vending machines
with a limited customer base. If freight service was on board the trains. An allowance was made for fare
restored, adequate windows could be found to operate a collection equipment in Item 70.
single daily freight train outside of passenger service hours.
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 18
SOFT COSTS for unknown factors and undiscovered situations that were
not accounted for at this level of analysis.
80 PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
Standard factors were applied to rolling stock and 100 FINANCE CHARGES
infrastructural costs to account for the anticipated "soft Finance charges were not considered at this level of
costs" associated with project development, including: analysis.
(ten percent of Items 10 through 50) COST ESTIMATE
Design engineering An order-of-magnitude estimate for the Phoenixville-Main
(ten percent of Items 10 through 70)
Line Rail Line capital costs was produced applying cost
factors drawn from Gannett Fleming’s library of other
(two percent of Items 10 through 50)
recent rail construction projects, modified to reflect the
(five percent of Items 10 through 50 and Item 70) Northeast US construction market.
The capital cost estimate for the Rail Link by proposed
90 UNALLOCATED CONTINGENCY
implementation stage is summarized in the table below.
A 25 percent contingency was added to the infrastructural
and rolling stock costs (Items 10 through 50 and Item 70)
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4
Phoenixville Devault Swedesford Rd Wyeth TOTALS
Devault Swedesford Rd Wyeth Paoli
10 Guideway, Track, Structures $ 3,100,000 $ 6,000,000 $ 3,700,000 $ 4,200,000 $ 17,000,000
20 Stations, Stops, Terminals $ 2,700,000 $ 1,700,000 $ 1,100,000 $ 1,800,000 $ 7,300,000
30 Support Facilities $ 8,000,000 $ - $ - $ - $ 8,000,000
40 Sitework/Special Conditions $ 400,000 $ 6,900,000 $ 7,500,000 $ 2,600,000 $ 17,400,000
50 Systems $ 3,900,000 $ 3,200,000 $ 300,000 $ 600,000 $ 8,000,000
60 ROW, Land, Improvements Not Estimated
70 Vehicles $ 15,600,000 $ 5,200,000 $ 5,200,000 $ 10,400,000 $ 36,400,000
SUBTOTALS* $ 33,700,000 $ 23,000,000 $ 17,800,000 $ 19,600,000 $ 94,100,000
80 Professional Services $ 7,200,000 $ 5,600,000 $ 4,200,000 $ 4,100,000 $ 21,100,000
90 Unallocated Contingency $ 8,400,000 $ 5,800,000 $ 4,400,000 $ 4,900,000 $ 23,500,000
100 Finance Charges Not Estimated
TOTALS $ 49,300,000 $ 34,400,000 $ 26,400,000 $ 28,600,000 $ 138,700,000
* Does not include right of way (Line 60) or "soft costs" (Lines 80, 90, 100).
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 19
The selected projects are illustrated in the map below.
The capital cost estimate for the Phoenixville-Main Line All involved conversion of an existing freight railroad to
Rail Link was evaluated in comparison with similar passenger rail service, although they varied by their
passenger rail projects recently constructed or under approach to project development. The table below
consideration in the Delaware Valley. The purpose of this summaries the length, cost and cost per mile for each of the
comparison was to determine if the prospective capital selected projects in comparison to the costs estimated in
costs associated with the Rail Link were in line with other this report for the Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link.
comparable regional projects that have been
deemed warranted to justify the expense of Project Length Cost Cost per Mile Source
planning, design or implementation. Phoenixville-Main Line 10 miles $ 139,000,000 $ 14,616,193 Concept Plan
NJT RiverLine 34 miles $ 1,100,000,000 $ 32,352,941 Construction
Four local projects were selected for
Schuylkill Valley Metro 62 miles $ 2,100,000,000 $ 33,870,968 AA/EIS
Route R3 Wawa Extension 3 miles $ 95,000,000 $ 31,666,667 Bids
NJ Transit River LINE, a 34-mile Quakertown Shuttle 21 miles $ 114,000,000 $ 5,428,571 AA
passenger line between Trenton and
Camden, opened in 2004. Service is operated
The conclusion of this assessment is that the cost and
with Stadler GTW 2/6 railcars, sharing tracks
scope of the CDC’s Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link
with freight trains under a temporal separation
concept are in line with other passenger rail projects
recently under consideration or implemented in this region.
Schuylkill Valley Metro
proposes to convert 62 miles
of existing railroad lines into
a high-rail system between
Philadelphia and Reading.
Costs reflect the results of a
2004 Alternatives Analysis/
Environmental Impact Study.
Route R3 Wawa Extension proposes a
three-mile extension of regional rail service
from Elwyn to Wawa over an existing
railroad line. Costs were from bids
received for construction in 2007.
Quakertown Shuttle proposes a
21-mile extension of regional rail
service from Lansdale to the
Quakertown area over an existing
railroad line. Costs reflect the
results of a 2008 Alternatives
PHOENIXVILLE-MAIN LINE PASSENGER RAIL ASSESSMENT Page 20
CONCLUSION Continuing southward from Great Valley to
Frazer, Glen Loch and US Route 202 in West
The CDC’s Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link concept was
Chester via various former railroad rights of way.
evaluated in terms of its physical and practical feasibility,
the latter relative to other passenger rail projects recently NEXT STEPS
under consideration or having been implemented in the
This assessment considered alternative alignments and
Delaware Valley region. It was determined that the cost to
technologies on a conceptual level. If further project
further study and, if warranted, ultimately implement the
development was deemed warranted, an action plan would
Rail Link concept would be in the order of magnitude of
include a market/travel demand analyses for a rail service
about $139 million, although start up can be implemented
incrementally in less costly stages.
The conclusion of this assessment is that the
cost and scope of the CDC’s Phoenixville-Main
Line Rail Link concept are in line with other
passenger rail projects recently under
consideration or implemented in this region.
Although the NJ Transit River LINE has
successfully operated in the region for over four
years, other potential of using light diesel rail
transit on existing rail lines has not been widely
considered as a suburban mobility option. The
map on the right outlines possible further
applications of the concept for Chester County
and surrounding areas stemming from an initial
implementation of the Phoenixville-Main Line
Rail Link. Options include:
Continuing eastward via the NS
on the line, more detailed analysis of alternatives
Phoenixville Line to Oaks along US Route 422;
(including comparisons with “no build” or enhanced transit
Continuing northward via the NS Phoenixville
options) and advanced conceptual engineering. Further
Line and new right of way to the technology and
coordination should be undertaken with public and private
biomedical centers in Arcola along US Route
sector interests to coordinate transportation planning and to
identify possible partnerships as a means of expediting
Continuing westward through the Fairview implementation.
Tunnel to Spring City and Pottstown via the
former PRR Schuylkill Valley Division, now
owned by PECO; or