Why Does Downingtown Need a ‘New’ Train Station . . . Current station is less than 20 years old! What about Assistance for Train Station Projects already started . . . Ardmore? Paoli?

I was surprised by this headline in the Daily Local, ‘State to consider new Downingtown train station’ – What?  How about helping the Ardmore Transit Center project or our own Paoli Transportation Center?

According to the article, Bob Garrett, representative from the PA Dept of Transportation presented information to the Downingtown Borough Council that a state-funded study ($200K) will get underway shortly to look for a new site for their train station. What’s wrong with their current train station?

This makes no sense to me for several reasons.  First off, how is it possible that less than 2 weeks since passing the state budget, (with major cuts to education and human services) there is money to move the location of Downingtown train station? I researched the current train station in Downingtown and discovered the station is less than 20 years old!  The 19th century train station in Downingtown burned down in the early 1990s and was rebuilt sometime prior to 2000.  So why does the state think that Downingtown needs a new station and a new location?  Apparently, the current station needs more parking and the renovation of the present platform will not allow for sufficient handicap accessibility. 

I checked and the Downingtown train station has 213 parking spaces. I believe that like Paoli, Downingtown serves as both a SEPTA and Amtrak station. However, unlike Paoli, only select trains on the Paoli/Thorndale (R5) actually go to the Downingtown train station.  The daily passenger traffic at Paoli train station is almost 3 times that of the Downingtown train station.  According to a FY2010 Amtrak fact sheet, Paoli daily traffic is 155,000 passengers versus 59,000 passengers at Downingtown train station.  Based on the level of passenger traffic, additional parking needs, building improvement, etc. why is the focus not on the Paoli Transportation Center but on moving the location of the Downingtown train station.  The redevelopment plans for the Paoli Transportation Center have been in the works for years, whereas the Downingtown train station project appears to be the new kid on the block.

According to Garrett, the state wants to improve the train stations from Philadelphia to Harrisburg in hopes of increasing ridership.  This expensive study is to decide where in Downingtown to put the new train station.  As an aside, I found it interesting that the Dept of Transportation is without a ‘plan’ of what to do with the old Downingtown train station property once they move the location and build a new station. 

My question to the Dept of Transportation is why not finish the train station projects already underway before starting a new one . . . like the Ardmore Transit Center and our own Paoli Transportation Center?  When asked how much this project would cost, Garrett was not sure but a renovation at the Elizabethtown train station was $12.5 million.  Garrett offered that the state would help with the funding of the train station project in Downingtown.

Online I found a ‘Transportation Funding Crisis’ document which lists the public transportation projects for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District-6 which includes Philadelphia, Chester, Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery counties.  The comprehensive list of transportation projects includes Ardmore and Paoli transportation centers, but no listing whatsoever for the Downingtown train station project.  To be fair, there is no date on the Dept. of Transportation document so it may be a year or two old.  We know that the state has a finite amount of money for transportation projects, so why add a new project when there is an established list of train station projects already approved? Should there not be a priority to state funding for existing projects?

I would like an update on the Paoli Transportation Center . . . it seems as if the project is in limbo.  Where exactly does the project stand?  If the answer is, there is ‘no money’, than I think we need to contact Bob Garrett at the PA Department of Transportation office.  Obviously if the state is willing to fund the purchase of property and the building of a new train station in Downingtown, that has one-third the level of daily traffic as the Paoli train station, this community is missing out! 

What about Paoli Transportation Center — why can’t we get help? Who to contact — Township supervisors . . . State Rep Kampf . . . Senator Dinniman?

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I want to mention an op-ed article written by Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello titled, ‘We Must Address Transportation Needs’.  As Costello says, “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the inevitable and ignore the fact that our aging infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and enhancements . . . “

Federal assistance is no longer available for the state’s critical infrastructure needs; help needs to come from Harrisburg.

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14 Comments

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  1. As much as I agree with you, that our spending priories are very “SCREWED UP”, let me tell you about the Downingtown Station. That Station is real close to the Brandywine and the parking lot floods every time the Brandywine crests. Brother in law lost a vehicle in that mess. I am sure that is why they are looking at moving or fixing that Station.

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  2. Sorry, I got the wrong station, it is the Throndale Station. Lot more people park at that Station.

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    Finao 31 Reply:

    I can’t say whether (or why) the parking lot at Thorndale floods (poor drainage, maybe), but I can say that the Downingtown station is a lot closer to the Brandywine than the Thorndale station.

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  3. I bought my house in Valley Hills about 15 yrs. ago and there was already talk of a new train station and better parking. I take the train to the city every day and really believed that the station would be built by this time. I know that it all takes time but last year when there was the big check moment with that developer, I thought at last we would see something happen. Except for a photo op for politicians, nothing much has happened. You are right that no one better say there’s no $$, If the state can pay for the Downingtown project than they certainly can pay for the Paoli train station.

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  4. Regarding your quote:

    “My question to the Dept of Transportation is why not finish the train station projects already underway before starting a new one . . . like the Ardmore Transit Center and our own Paoli Transportation Center?”

    Please let us know the response from the Department of Transportation. You’re not the only one curious about that.

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  5. I would take this with a LARGE grain of salt. The Dept of Transportation always puts forth these items like they are a fait accompli, when they are not.

    This sounds like step 1 of a long-term process — a process in which the Paoli center is much further along already.

    At the end of the day, this is going to come down to money and Paoli is already ahead of Downingtown on the list. Of course, the big question is: “Is there any money?”

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  6. Ardmore is a boondoggle – they went to get money to get us a train station, only now there really is no “transit” in the “transit center ” project. And Paoli? Another mess. And what about Malvern? it is progressing but is a desolate mess with no parking right now. I am frustrated because it seems they keep announcing and starting projects only they never get completed. Great post and I will cross post on SAC

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Thanks Carla. I am going to write an update tomorrow and will cite your SAC post.

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  7. People only read the headlines — the political momentum comes from the initial announcement. Is this Curt Schroder’s turf? I’m guessing so, and since he’s pretty tea-party friendly, he wouldn’t want to announce something that has a pricetag….which may be why the DOT is announcing this one. Funny how people play to their base?

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  8. give it a rest… lots of assumptions based on assumptions..

    that darn tea party…

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    give it a rest Reply:

    FF — isn’t that what blogs are about? If this is supposed to be a big deal, why wouldn’t there be a photo op with it? Really. We dont’ even know who is pushing it. Someone clearly doesn’t want/need credit. Not paranoid — just wonderin’. In PA right now, and with the tea party almost everywhere, it’s about the “base”….not the reality. This Debt Limit thing ought to remind us that you can win without looking like that’s your goal. THe Rs took the topic hostage by refusing to approve it without spending cuts and no revenue increases. (Of course, even their spending cuts are just a reduction in increases…..) They thought they had the upper hand. Tea Party Victory….until they forgot that the REALLY rich people, not just the noisy ones, don’t want the US to default or even get close to default. So now O and the Ds have the power in the debate. He who loves least wins most. Now the conservatives have said “no default” and the R’s don’t have any chips left. Whoops.

    My point in making the assumptions is that this should be a political moment….this is Schroder’s turf. WHY wouldn’t he be touting it? Maybe because the “base” says no spending….but clearly someone wants it, so it comes in quietly. And a study is NOT a project. Just another reason the rest of us are tired of being asked to “pay a little more”…..because someone somewhere is deciding who the rich people are….

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  9. the “base”? Which base, the republican base, or the democrat base? The ball is in Obama’s court. haven’t seen a budget from him or smelly reid. Obama should go play golf.

    But the bottom line is he is president for now, and the onus is on HIM to work out a deal. The R’s were put in to the House by a vote of the people, and they are doing the work of those people, not all RICH.

    How ironic that Obama wants deficit reduction,(his way of course,raising the old tax man) while he is responsible for the greatest increase in deficits in the history of our republic.
    It is really time for another election. I just hope there is an honest person running. We shall see. …those darn tea parties… what a disgrace.. Move on.org. george soros… YES!

    No spending is a good answer now, since there is NOTHING to spend. except those darn rich people. How’s the koolaide?
    let;s see, lightbulb regulation, toilet paper regulation, auto regulations to promote government “picked” companies.

    I am sick of it all. And where is the leadership? leading from behind. By the way, the R’s as you say would probably accept a tax reduction in the corporate tax rate in exchange for closing some loopholes. Obama’s friend immelt from GE… Ge paid NO taxes last year. whats that about? If taxes were so important, to raise, then whats our leader doing about him?

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  10. The old station burned down, and they built a new shelter, not a new platform. If you take one look at the condition of the platform and the pedestrian tunnel, you wouldn’t be wondering why Downingtown needs a new station.

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  11. I think you are totally off base here. The stations age has nothing to do with it. The station burnt down in 1992. What was put in it’s place is basically a leaky plexiglas bus stop, non-enclosed “shelter”. It was done in haste, cost very little and was not well thought out. It was a cheap, quick fix. In your precious Paoli and Ardmore transportation centers, you can actually be indoors and or purchase tickets while awaiting the arrival of your train in comfort, not to mention the fact that spoiled travelers there can get a cup of coffee. Maybe you should actually visit the Downingtown train station, it absolutely needs to be rebuilt before anything is done in (your most precious) Paoli.

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