Schuylkill Valley Metro

Last updated
Schuylkill Valley Metro
Overview
Type Tram-train
StatusCancelled
Locale Pennsylvania
Termini Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Wyomissing, Pennsylvania
Glenloch, Pennsylvania
Stations20
Operation
Owner Norfolk Southern Railway
Operator(s) SEPTA
Technical
Line length62 miles (100 kilometres)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

The Schuylkill Valley Metro (SVM) was a proposal for a 62-mile railway system that would link Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with the city of Reading, Pennsylvania in central Berks County, using the SEPTA Manayunk/Norristown Line and Cynwyd Line, plus two Norfolk Southern Railway freight-only lines. The proposal was rejected by the Federal Transit Administration; there are no plans to move forward with the project.

Contents

History

The Schuylkill Valley Metro (SVM) has its roots in the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown railroad in the early 19th century, which later became the Reading Company. The line served as a long-distance passenger and freight line between Philadelphia, Reading, and Harrisburg, nearly paralleling the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad — later incorporated as the main east-west line of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR).

Prior to 1976, the SVM line, which was electrified between Reading Terminal and Norristown in 1933, ran parallel to the PRR's Schuylkill Branch (which was also electrified to Norristown, in 1930 as part of the PRR's main electrification project), which connected Philadelphia, via the East-West Mainline, with Reading and Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The City of Philadelphia and suburban counties began providing public funds under contract with PRR and RDG for continuation and improvement of regional rail service. Because the Reading's Norristown line was considered the stronger of the two, PRR service was cut back to Manayunk in 1960.

Conrail assumed operations in April 1976, resulting in all freight activity shifting to the SVM line. Commuter service on the former PRR line was extended from Manayunk to Ivy Ridge in order to serve a new park-and-ride lot, but was curtailed in 1986 to the Cynwyd station in Lower Merion Township. SVM service to Reading, which used electric multiple-unit cars between Reading Terminal and Norristown, and diesel-electric "push-pull" cars from Norristown to Reading, continued in operation until SEPTA ceased funding in 1981, two years prior to taking over all of the electrified Philadelphia area commuter rail service.

Since its termination in 1981, the population shifted from Philadelphia itself out to the suburbs, with some residents commuting over 60 miles from Reading and its suburbs to Philadelphia on a daily basis. Although the completion of bypasses for U.S. Highway 422, U.S. Highway 202, and Interstate 76 allows travelers to reach Philadelphia without a traffic-control device, the increased number of automobiles has placed a strain on these three highways. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, under former Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker, along with U.S. Congressman Jim Gerlach of the state's 6th Congressional district, have placed pressure on the federal government to give funding for the new SVM project. No concrete plans have been approved.

In August 2006, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell announced that funding for the SVM project would not be forthcoming and that it should be considered dead. [1] [2] In December 2007, Montgomery County authorized an unsuccessful study that looked at possible new funding sources. [3] Congressman Jim Gerlach announced in April 2011 that the results from that Montgomery County study would be soon published. [4]

Physical description

The new SVM system, while identical in many ways to the old SVM line from the Reading days, would be completely different in many aspects. First, the line would use both sides of the former SEPTA R6 lines; the former PRR Schuylkill Branch between Suburban Station and Ivy Ridge (Cynwyd Line), and the former Reading's main line between Jefferson Station and Norristown (Manayunk/Norristown Line), before merging on the old Reading Main Line (now Norfolk Southern's Harrisburg Line) west of the current Norristown station. A new spur, called the Cross-County Segment, would split off at Port Kennedy (near Valley Forge), and would allow SVM trains to access King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and the Great Valley Corporate Center in Malvern, Pennsylvania, using the former PRR/Penn Central Trenton Cutoff (now Norfolk Southern's Dale Secondary) used by the former PRR as a freight-only bypass around Philadelphia, although an alternative would be to have the Cross-County segment serve only King of Prussia with SEPTA extending the existing Norristown High-Speed Line to King of Prussia, via the Trenton Cutoff.

Unlike the RDG trains, the new SVM would be entirely electric, with power being supplied by Amtrak, SEPTA, and (between Norristown and Reading) the Exelon Corporation, the successor company to the former Philadelphia Electric Company, later PECO Energy. Existing catenary wires, powered at 12 kV, 25 Hz AC, would be used on the old lines, with new high-tension catenary poles, powered at 25 kV, 60 Hz AC, and similar to the system utilized on the Northeast Corridor north of New Haven, Connecticut, would be employed west of Norristown.

Stations

SVM plans included stations currently used by SEPTA, along with new stations north of Norristown. As the SVM cars would only have motormen, and to allow compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, all existing and new stations would be built with high-level platforms. The stations are as follows:

SVM Main Line (Philadelphia-Reading)

SVM Cross-County Segment (Philadelphia-Great Valley)

Planners intended to operate trains at 15-minute intervals during peak travel times, Mondays to Fridays, and at 30-minute intervals at all other times. Norfolk Southern Railway trains would have been able to use most of the system at all hours, but would have been restricted to overnight movements at some locations after SVM ceased operations at night between Midnight and 6 a.m.

Succession

"SEPTA has several techniques for sandbagging unwanted projects — raise concerns over safety, estimate costs unrealistically high, or push for rail trail conversions to stave off repeated calls for service restoration."

- Gerry Williams, Railpace Newsmagazine columnist [5]

Norristown Extension

After the plan was rejected by FTA, the Montgomery County Planning Commission initiated the R6 Extension Study (later called the Norristown Extension) as an alternative approach. [6] [7] Unlike the SVM, the R6 Extension Study would only see electrification extended as far as King of Prussia (with SEPTA extending the Norristown High Speed Service) and no major reconstruction of any platforms. Any service west of King of Prussia would require new construction and the purchasing of extra push-pull consists hauled by dual-mode locomotives. Funding for the R6 Extension Study was to be provided by revenue earned via a proposed plan to toll U.S. Route 422 between Pottstown and King of Prussia. [8] The tolling idea, suggested by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), was lambasted by several regional politicians, most notably Pennsylvania House of Representatives member Mike Vereb. Vereb and the influential passenger rail advocacy group Pennsylvania Transit Expansion Coalition jointly appeared at a DVRPC open forum on September 13, 2011 where DVRPC Executive Director Barry Seymour was presenting. [9] [10] [11] On October 5, 2011, under increasing pressure and opposition, DVRPC cancelled the tolling proposal and plans for the Norristown Extension. [12] [13]

In mid-2018, the borough of Phoenixville began a study to restore SEPTA passenger rail service between Norristown and Phoenixville along Norfolk Southern freight railroad tracks. [14] In 2018, a panel led by the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance pushed for an extension of the Manayunk/Norristown Line to Reading, with service terminating either at the Franklin Street Station in Reading or in Wyomissing. The proposed extension would utilize existing Norfolk Southern freight railroad tracks. Before service can be implemented, a study would need to take place. [15]

Greenline

Another alternate approach, known as the Greenline , proposed to serve the towns of Oaks and Phoenixville via a new connection at the current Paoli/Thorndale Line at Paoli Station. This project was cancelled when funding could not be obtained. [16] [17]

Related Research Articles

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

Phoenixville is a borough in Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States, 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Philadelphia, at the junction of French Creek with the Schuylkill River. It is located in the Philadelphia Metro Area. The population is 16,440 as of the 2010 Census. As noted by Forbes, Phoenixville is a former beaten-down mill town with a recent downtown revitalization plan that lead to 10 craft breweries and a distillery. Downtown Phoenixville has more breweries per square foot than anywhere else in America.

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania Census-designated place in Pennsylvania, United States

King of Prussia is a census-designated place in Upper Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States. As of the 2010 census, its population was 19,936. The community took its name in the 18th century from a local tavern named the King of Prussia Inn, which was named after King Frederick the Great of Prussia. Like the rest of Montgomery County, King of Prussia continues to experience rapid development. One of the largest shopping malls in the United States, King of Prussia, is located here. Also located here is the headquarters of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region I. King of Prussia is considered to be an edge city of Philadelphia, consisting of large amounts of retail and office space situated at the convergence of four highways.

Schuylkill River River in eastern Pennsylvania, United States

The Schuylkill River is a river running northwest to southeast in eastern Pennsylvania, which was improved by navigations into the Schuylkill Canal. Several of its tributaries drain major parts of the center-southern and easternmost Coal Regions in the state. It flows for 135 miles (217 km) from Pottsville to Philadelphia, where it joins the Delaware River as one of its largest tributaries.

Norristown High Speed Line interurban rapid transit line

The Norristown High Speed Line is a 13.4 miles (21.6 km) interurban light rapid transit line operated by SEPTA, running between the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby and the Norristown Transportation Center in Norristown, Pennsylvania, United States. The rail line runs entirely on its own right-of-way, inherited from the original Philadelphia and Western Railroad line. In Fiscal Year 2013, the Norristown High Speed Line carried 2,419,500 passengers; this was down from the 2.764 million passengers carried in Fiscal Year 2012, partly due to a two-day service suspension due to Hurricane Sandy. In Fiscal Year 2015, the Norristown High Speed Line carried 3,429,300 passengers, an increase of 9% from FY 2014 when it carried 3,147,209 passengers.

SEPTA Regional Rail commuter rail service

The SEPTA Regional Rail system is a commuter rail network serving the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. The system has 13 branches and more than 150 active stations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, its suburbs and satellite towns and cities. It is the fifth-busiest commuter railroad in the United States, and the busiest outside of the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas. In 2016, the Regional Rail system had an average of 132,000 daily riders.

The Schuylkill Expressway, locally known as "the Schuylkill", is a two to eight lane freeway through southwestern Montgomery County and the city of Philadelphia, and the easternmost segment of Interstate 76 in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It extends from the Valley Forge exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in King of Prussia, paralleling its namesake Schuylkill River for most of the route, to the Walt Whitman Bridge in South Philadelphia. It serves as the primary corridor into Philadelphia from points west. Maintenance and planning are administered through Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 6. Constructed over a period of ten years from 1949 to 1959, a large portion of the expressway predates the 1956 introduction of Interstate Highway System; many of these portions were not built to contemporary standards. The rugged terrain, limited riverfront space covered by the route and narrow spans of bridges passing over the highway have largely stymied later attempts to upgrade or widen the highway. With the road being highly over capacity, it has become notorious for its chronic congestion. An average of 163,000 vehicles use the road daily in Philadelphia County, and an average of 109,000 use the highway in Montgomery County, making it the busiest road in commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its narrow lane and left shoulder configuration, left lane entrances and exits, common construction activity and generally congested conditions have led to many accidents, critical injuries and fatalities, leading to the highway's humorous nickname of the "Surekill Expressway" or in further embellishment, the "Surekill Distressway" or the “Surekill Crawlway".

Norristown Transportation Center train station in Norristown, Pennsylvania

Norristown Transportation Center is a two-level multimodal public transportation regional hub located in Norristown, Pennsylvania, USA, operated by SEPTA. It opened in 1989 to replace the older Norristown High Speed Line terminus one block away at Main and Swede Streets, and integrated the former Reading Company DeKalb Street Norristown railroad station into its structure. A plaque embedded in the sidewalk commemorates the location of one of the columns of the dismantled segment of the Philadelphia and Western Railroad (P&W) trestle.

U.S. Route 422 (US 422) is a 271-mile (436 km) long spur route of US 22 split into two segments in the U.S. states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. The western segment of US 422 begins in downtown Cleveland and ends at Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. The eastern segment, located entirely within Pennsylvania, begins in Hershey and ends at King of Prussia, PA, near Philadelphia. U.S. Route 422 Business is the offshoot road into each of 4 towns along the way.

Manayunk station SEPTA Regional Rail station

Manayunk station is a station located along the SEPTA Manayunk/Norristown rail line. It is located at Cresson and Carson Streets in the Manayunk neighborhood of northwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In FY 2013, Manayunk station had a weekday average of 654 boardings and 563 alightings.

Ivy Ridge station SEPTA Regional Rail station

Ivy Ridge station is a SEPTA Regional Rail station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Located at Umbria Street and Parker Avenue in Northwest Philadelphia, it serves the Manayunk/Norristown Line. The initial station was built in a minimalist design similar to that of Elm Street, Norristown. The current station has a 204-space parking lot. In FY 2013, Ivy Ridge station had a weekday average of 602 boardings and 582 alightings.

Main Street station (SEPTA) SEPTA Regional Rail station

Main Street station is a SEPTA Regional Rail station in Norristown, Pennsylvania, United States. It serves the Manayunk/Norristown Line. It is one of the two stations on the short electrified branch to Elm Street in Norristown. This branch leaves the main (diesel-only) line to Pottsville and Reading. Currently owned by Norfolk Southern Railway, the Reading Railroad once operated passenger service on that line. The station has 76 parking spaces. It is located at Main and Markley Streets. In FY 2013, Main Street station had a weekday average of 189 boardings and 181 alightings.

Harrisburg Line Norfolk Southern rail line

The Harrisburg Line is a rail line owned and operated by the Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) in the U.S. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The line runs from Philadelphia west to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Schuylkill Branch

The Schuylkill Branch was a rail line owned and operated by the former Pennsylvania Railroad in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The line ran from the Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line at 52nd Street in Philadelphia north via Norristown, Reading, and Pottsville to Delano Junction. From Delano Junction, the PRR had trackage rights over the Lehigh Valley Railroad's Hazleton Branch and Tomhicken Branch to Tomhicken, where the PRR's Catawissa Branch began. In conjunction with the Catawissa Branch, Nescopeck Branch, and Wilkes-Barre Branch, the Schuylkill Branch gave the PRR a direct line from Philadelphia to Wilkes-Barre.

The Greenline was a proposed $138 million mass transit line for the Upper Schuylkill Valley region in southeastern Pennsylvania in the United States. The line was advocated by the group Citizens for the Train. Grant money needed to fund a feasibility study was not successfully obtained. Since 2014, there have been no plans to move forward with the project.

Manayunk Bridge rail trail bridge over the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania

The Manayunk Bridge is an S-shaped former railroad bridge over the Schuylkill River, Schuylkill Canal and Schuylkill Expressway, that connects Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County and the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Closed to rail traffic in 1986, it is now an extension of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail and connects to the Schuylkill River Trail.

Cynwyd Line SEPTA Regional Rail line

The Cynwyd Line is a SEPTA Regional Rail line running from Center City Philadelphia to Cynwyd in Montgomery County. Originally known as the Ivy Ridge Line, service was truncated on May 27, 1986, at its current terminus at Cynwyd. Track between Cynwyd and Ivy Ridge was dismantled between 2008 and 2010 for conversion as an interim rail trail, preventing service restoration for the foreseeable future. The Cynwyd line is the shortest of the SEPTA regional rail lines, and is the second shortest regional rail line in the United States, with only the New Jersey Transit Princeton Branch being shorter. It is by far the least ridden and least trafficked SEPTA Regional Rail Line. It is fully grade-separated.

Manayunk/Norristown Line SEPTA Regional Rail line

The Manayunk/Norristown Line is a commuter rail line in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and one of the 13 lines in SEPTA's Regional Rail network.

Trenton Cutoff

The Trenton Cutoff is a 48-mile (77 km) rail corridor in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania that runs from Morrisville to Glenloch. Today used by Norfolk Southern, it consists of two rail lines: the Morrisville Line, which runs between Morrisville and Earnest, and the Dale Secondary between Earnest and Glenloch.

Phoenixville station

Phoenixville station is a former train station in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Located at 4 Bridge Street in Phoenixville, it is currently used for offices.

Shawmont station

Shawmont is a former train station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is located on Nixon Lane in the Roxborough section of Lower Northwest Philadelphia. Built by the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad, it later became part of the Reading Railroad and ultimately SEPTA Regional Rail's R6 Norristown Line. SEPTA closed the station in 1996. In 2018, $1 million was set aside for repairs and rehabilitation.

References

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  2. "Metro project gets lukewarm support". Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  3. "Community log: Transportation study" . Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  4. "Congressman meets with borough officials" . Retrieved 2011-04-27.
  5. Williams, Gerry (August 2008). "SEPTA Scene". Railpace Newsmagazine. Picataway, New Jersey: Railpace Company, Inc. 7 (8): 49.
  6. "R6 Extension Study". Archived from the original on 28 August 2009.
  7. Hambright, Brett (August 10, 2010). "Technology is making tolls (almost) painless". Reading Eagle . Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  8. Hambright, Brett (December 12, 2010). "Decision near on Route 422 tolls". Reading Eagle . Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  9. PA-TEC 422 Corridor Transportation Improvements Proposal
  10. PA-TEC news: Sept 2011
  11. "Crowd gives 422 tolling plan unwelcome reception". The Mercury. September 13, 2011.
  12. "REPORT: Tolls not the 'best option' for Route 422". http://www.newsworks.org/ . Journal Register News Service. October 5, 2011.External link in |newspaper= (help)
  13. "Report backs off 422 tolling plan". http://www.newsworks.org/ . Daily Local News. October 6, 2011. Archived from the original on January 2, 2013.External link in |newspaper= (help)
  14. "Phoenixville Regional Rail Plan Moving Forward". Patch. May 9, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  15. Brelje, Beth (August 21, 2018). "Panel hopes to revive Reading to Norristown passenger train service". Reading Eagle. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  16. Citizens for the Train Archived 2009-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  17. phoenixville.patch.com "Greenline not moving forward"