Paoli Transportation Center Background
Paoli is in the middle of a high tech and high income corridor that extends west from Philadelphia through portions of Montgomery, Delaware and Chester Counties. The growth
corridor roughly parallels Septa’s R5 Regional Rail line heading west from Philadelphia and includes the U.S. Route 202 corridor through King of Prussia, Valley Forge, and Great Valley, Pennsylvania, one of the strongest office/industrial markets in the country. Paoli is bisected by Route 30 (Lancaster Avenue), a heavily used arterial road, and is identified as an “urban center” in Chester County’s comprehensive policy plan, “Landscapes.”
The focal point of Paoli is the train station, which is located north of Route 30 and east of North Valley Road. It is owned and used by Amtrak as a stop for the Keystone Line to Harrisburg, but is used much more extensively by Septa for the R5 Regional Rail line connecting Philadelphia with the western suburbs. West of the station, across North Valley Road, is the Paoli Rail Yards, also owned by Amtrak and previously used for rail car storage and maintenance. In 1984, PCBs were found there and the Rail Yards eventually was designated a federal Superfund site. Storage and maintenance activities at the Rail Yard property ceased around that time.
In 1996, the Paoli Rail Yards Task Force, composed of representatives from Tredyffrin and Willistown Townships, Chester County, Septa , Amtrak, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PennDOT and elected officials, completed a study examining the feasibility of constructing a transportation center in Paoli to replace the existing train station. The station has high daily ridership but cannot meet the needs of a fully integrated intermodal transportation center. The Paoli Rail Yards and Transportation Center Plan recommended:
- Construction of a new station and associated facilities
- Preparation of a conceptual transportation center, access and development plan; and
- Preparation of preliminary development costs and income potential.
Other publications followed, including a plan commissioned by the Paoli Business and Professional Association, also prepared by Norman Day Associates, with recommendations for improvements to the pedestrian environment in Paoli, and a 1998 financial plan for implementation of the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center concept commissioned by the Paoli Rail Yards Task force.
Based on the pedestrian plan, streetscape guidelines for Lancaster Avenue were developed. They include provisions for sidewalks, lighting and landscaping. Although neither Township has formally adopted them, Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission has been successful in persuading applicants presenting land development plans for properties on Lancaster Avenue, including the Paoli area, to follow the guidelines.
The heart of the Paoli Community is the future Paoli Transportation Center. Therefore the basis for this project is the Paoli Community Master Plan, prepared in 2001, which incorporates many of the recommendations from two previous studies prepared in 1996, and which creates a vision for the Paoli Community in many aspects, including the surrounding transportation system.
- Public Participation: Public meetings and listening session begin during the Summer to gather information and continue through the fall.
- Paoli Road Improvement Study – Feasibility Study and Public Involvement: Tredyffrin Township selected McMahon Associates, Inc. to complete a study outlining specific recommendations for road improvements needed to support the planned Transportation Center. The Study will address existing congestion, public safety concerns, and the overall vision for a multi-modal Paoli through traffic calming and streetscape and intersection modifications. Public outreach and stakeholder involvement will be a major component of this project. This project is state-funded and is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
- Routes 252 & 30 Intersection Improvements: Tredyffrin Township selected Bergmann Associates, Inc. to design various signal and roadway improvements for the Routes 252 and 30 Intersection based off of a feasibility study completed in 2011. This study is state- and federally-funded and is expected to be completed by 2013/2014.
- Train Station: SEPTA awarded a $7.5 million contract to Gannett Fleming Inc. for design of a new Paoli regional rail station and parking garage. This project is expected to take place through 2014.
- Keystone Line Interlocking: PennDOT selected Parsons Brinckerhoff to complete preliminary and final design of interlocking on the Keystone Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. This work includes the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center.
- Bergman Associates presents a feasibility study for widening Route 252 under the Amtrak bridge by Route 30. All bridge construction proves to be expensive, but a number of recommendations are accepted for improving traffic flow around the intersection without altering the bridge. Whitman, Requardt and Associates present a Bike and Pedestrian Plan.
- Amtrak selects Strategic Realty Investments as the developer of the rail yard.
- Tredyffrin and Willistown adopt ordinance amendments to regulate and guide development at the rail yard and surrounding business districts.
- The Superfund site is complete.
- Tredyffrin and Willistown adopt the Paoli Community Master Plan (143 pages, 7.45 MB), completed by Norman Day Associates to supplement the 1996 Plan with long-range development plans and transportation improvements for the Paoli Business District. Recommendations included redeveloping Amtrak’s Paoli Yard with a new train station and improved access and waiting areas for connecting buses and shuttles; upgrading the road system to handle increased traffic and improve access for bikes and pedestrians; and updating zoning for the Rail Yard and surrounding business district.
- The Superfund cleanup encounters numerous obstacles.
- Tredyffrin and Willistown Townships, Chester County, Septa, Amtrak, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, PennDOT, and the EPA form the Paoli Rail Yard Task Force to monitor the Superfund cleanup and coordinate planning for the reuse of the rail yard.
- Consultants complete the “Paoli Rail Yard and Transportation Center Plan” for the Task Force. The Plan recommends relocating the Paoli Amtrak/R5 train station to the rail yard.
- Septa decides to move Its regional commuter rail system car storage station from the rail yard; Amtrak (as the landowner) starts to make plans to utilize the vacant property.
- A concentration of PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) is discovered at Amtrak’s Paoli railroad marshaling yard or “rail yard”, leading to its declaration as a federal Superfund site.