Paoli Transportation Center

$9 million for 7+ acres in the heart of Paoli – Will buyer build multi-story apartment buildings?

 

Paoli Station aerial view

Station Square aerial view, photo courtesy of HFF

In early 2014, Home Properties, a Philadelphia-based developer proposed a 250+-unit multifamily building with structured parking plan for Station Square, the 7.475 acre commercial site at the corner of Central and North Valley Roads in Paoli, owned by the Palmer Group Properties.  Although the current Town Center District zoning allows for 135 apartments on the property by right, the developer sought approval for greater density.

The proposed 4-story apartment complex was viewed as a radical change for the immediate community and concerns were raised as to whether this high density project was a good fit for the neighborhood. Major issues surrounded the proposed project, including increased traffic, density, height, change to the character of the neighborhood, impact on school district, public safety, etc.  Ultimately, faced with many unanswered questions from the Planning Commission and major pushback from the local residents, the proposed 2014 redevelopment plan quietly disappeared.

Station Square is back in the news – According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Palmer Group Properties has retained Holliday Fowler (HFF) to sell the 7+ acre land site with four existing multi-tenant office buildings. Marketing the project for apartments, by utilizing the Town Center District Zoning, which allows up to 135 multi-unit housing units by right, the four aging office buildings that exist on the site need to be demolished prior to the development. Current asking price for the Station Square property is $9 million.

Approximately one acre of the Station Square property will be transferred through eminent domain to Amtrak and SEPTA for the proposed $36 million redevelopment of the Paoli Transportation Center and realignment of a bridge over Valley Road.

According to HFF sales literature, the property is being offered as a “strong development opportunity” and that the “Demand for multi-housing remains healthy throughout Greater Philadelphia, however, a scarcity of Class-A transit-oriented development opportunities exist within The Main Line. With a new development opportunity focused around an affluent population and dynamic location, Paoli Station represents a unique investment opportunity.”  HFF states that “the site is ideal for residential development due to its location, accessibility and strong demographic profile.”

Speaking of the Paoli Transportation Center, I have heard no news on that front.  A check of the Tredyffrin Township website, does not indicate any new or updated information but it does state that Phase I (of the three phases), the Station Accessibility Improvements is set to begin in the Summer of 2016. This construction includes a new center high level platform, elevators and ramps, pedestrian overpass, parking lot improvements, ADA improvements to the existing station building and improvements to the existing rail infrastructure. So, if the township website information is correct, that means this time next year we should see forward movement on the train station project.

Paoli Transportation Center moves forward … Included in SEPTA’s 2016-17 Capital Program

The following comment and photo was posted on Facebook today by Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline  —

County Commissioner Michelle Kichline —

I was delighted to hear the news that SEPTA has announced its 2016-27 capital program proposal recently. Among its projects that have been deemed ready for the next phase of design is the Paoli Transportation Center, a project I have had the privilege of working on as a member of the Paoli Task Force. SEPTA’s 2016-27 capital program shows funding for Phase I of the project, moving us closer toward a start of construction in 2016, as well as funding for the project’s phases thereafter for the Darby Road bridge and a parking garage. Paoli is on the move!

A user's photo.
Coincidentally, last night was the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Spring Lecture Series.  Our guest lecturer Greg Prichard presentation was “Pennsylvania Main Line Train Stations of Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships”.  Greg spoke about train station architecture and history, mthys vs. reality, evolution and growth of the railroad in our area and how past (and future) restoration efforts helped the stations to endure.  Discussing the train stations geographically from east to west, his presentation ended with Paoli Train Station.  During the Q & A following the presentation, I was asked for an update on the Paoli Transportation Center and I really couldn’t offer any new information.
So, after I saw Michelle’s Facebook comment,  I found SEPTA’s 2016 Capital Budget, dated April 2015 was just uploaded online. Below is a status on Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center contained in the recently released document:
SEPTA capital 2016
According to this graphic from SEPTA’s report, the $36 million Phase I design is underway with construction to begin in 2016. Phase I makes the station ADA accessible and includes a pedestrian overpass, elevators and new high level platform.
It appears that the “Paoli on the Move” website has not been updated in a year (April 2014) – perhaps with this exciting news from SEPTA, the timeline on the Tredyffrin Township website can be updated. It does look like the Paoli Transportation Center is taking steps in the right direction!

Incumbent State Rep Warren Kampf (R) has Democrat challenger(s) for PA 157 race!

Democrat Jed Grobstein of Paoli released the following press release today officially throwing his hat in the ring in the PA State House 157 race. Conestoga High School grad and former high school teacher in South Bronx, NY, Grobstein believes that he can make a difference in Harrisburg.  According to the press release, Grobstein will focus his campaign on Gov. Corbett’s educational budget cuts and State Rep Warren Kampf’s voting record on the transportation bill.

Things may get interesting for the PA State House 157 race because Grobstein may not be the only Democrat looking to unseat the Republican incumbent. I have also been told by several people in the last couple of days that Democrat Marian Moskowitz, a real estate attorney from Malvern has also decided to enter the 157 race.  This could be an interesting local campaign season!

PRESS RELEASE: Teacher Announces Campaign for PA 157th with $51,000 on Hand, Takes Kampf to Task for $1 billion in Cuts to Education

Jed Grobstein today announced his bid for the Democratic nomination to the State House in the Pennsylvania 157th, saying “Warren Kampf has taken our residents for granted for far too long. Pennsylvania needs smart, proactive leadership in Harrisburg, and not just a gaggle of Corbett yes-men. As a teacher in the South Bronx, I learned how to listen, how to be a problem-solver, and how to bring people together, and I think we need more of that in Harrisburg.”

Grobstein’s campaign, Jed for PA House, filed its 2013 annual report showing that it had raised more than $40,000 in just eight weeks. The campaign also reported having more than $51,000 on hand.

Grobstein noted that Warren Kampf “has worked with Gov. Corbett to cut $1 billion from education, and to make it more difficult for mothers to receive the health care they need. He unconditionally refused to support a bipartisan transportation bill and attempted to deny funding to critical transportation infrastructure, bridges, highways and our own Paoli Transportation Center.”

Grobstein served as a math teacher and a Democratic organizer, and he is proud to be running for office less than a mile from his childhood home. While teaching math in the South Bronx, Grobstein worked as the chairman of his department and founded the advocacy organization ‘Keep Our Schools Alive’ to encourage parents, students and teachers to participate in their school’s governance.

A graduate of Conestoga High School in Berwyn and Pomona College in Los Angeles, Grobstein received his Masters in Education from City College in New York. Teaching in the South Bronx, Grobstein served as chair of his Math Department and worked to develop new curriculum for the classroom while integrating assessment and instruction.

When New York City began closing high schools in 2009, Grobstein organized and founded ‘Keep Our Schools Alive’ (KOSA) to encourage stakeholders, parents, students and teachers, to participate in the city’s decision-making process. KOSA argued that the school closings were arbitrary and that the city had failed to engage essential stakeholders. The State Supreme Court agreed, and in 2010 it reversed the city’s decision, saying that the Department of Education had failed to gather sufficient community input.

Grobstein returned to Pennsylvania at the end of 2010 to pursue a career in the United States Marine Corps. When a shoulder injury prevented him from enlisting, Jed accepted a staff position with Organizing for America on President Obama’s re-election campaign. Following that election Jed served as campaign manager for Delaware County’s Democratic slate and produced historic gains in a county long known for its Republican dominance.

Fantastic News!! PA State Senator Andy Dinniman Announces $14.5 Million Award to Paoli Transportation Project!

I just received the following press release from State Senator Andy Dinniman’s office  — what wonderful, unbelievable news!!

Dinniman Announces $14.5 Million for Paoli Transportation Center Project

WEST CHESTER (November 25) – State Senator Andrew Dinniman today announced that $14.5 million in funding has been awarded toward the Paoli Transportation Project.

“This announcement represents my determination to take one the most significant steps forward in the 30-year history of the Paoli Regional Transportation Center,” said Dinniman. “Paoli and the Great Valley Corporate Center have long served as an economic engine for Chester County. The proposed transportation center and train station at Paoli will ensure that our regional infrastructure continues to provide incentives for entrepreneurs from local small-business owners to international corporations, to call Chester County home.”

Funding for the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center is a vital component of the proposal to relocate and expand the current station to a new site near the existing facility. Specifically, state funding will be directed toward roadway realignment and widening to accommodate the new and expanded regional transportation center. The proposed modern transportation hub in Paoli will improve access for buses, shuttles, and taxis; significantly increase commuter parking to meet both current demand and provide for future ridership; and improve vehicular traffic and reduce congestion for surrounding roadways.

“In light of recent transportation funding legislation in Harrisburg, I worked to ensure Chester County benefited directly from this funding package,” Dinniman continued. “Despite the efforts by some local officials in the House of Representatives to block this vital funding, I am pleased to announce that significant support will be directed for improvement projects such as the Paoli Regional Transportation Center.”

In addition to securing funding for the Paoli Transportation Center, Dinniman announced that more than $123 million in transportation funding will be directed to improvement projects throughout his current legislative district. These projects include $36 million for the repair and replacement of bridges, $17 million for regional roadway and pedestrian-use safety improvements, almost $69 million for roadway repaving, expansion improvement, and other traffic congestion mitigation project throughout Chester County.

“The key to the continuation and growth of our regional economy is directly linked to the strength of our infrastructure,” said Dinniman, noting the 76,000 new jobs estimated to come to Chester County between now and 2040. “With this in mind, I will continue to fight for support of Chester County and will work to ensure that important projects, such as the Paoli Transportation Center, are fully funded and completed.”

Paoli Transportation Center Plans Moving Ahead: Darby Road location selected for new train station

Last fall, SEPTA presented three options for the Paoli Transportation Center at an open house at the township building.  I received the following SEPTA press release from township manager, Bill Martin who had promised last week that an update was imminent.  After reviewing the public’s input and preference on the site location for the new train station, a  decision was announced today. Of the three alternatives, the Darby Road Extension was the preferred plan —   click here to review the three plans. A map of the Darby Road Extension Alternative is below.

According to SEPTA’s press release, in the Darby Road Extension Alternative plan, “the existing North Valley Road Bridge will be demolished and Darby Road will be extended across Lancaster Avenue over the railroad tracks and with a new bridge to be constructed.”    Both the Greenwood and the Plank Avenue options had the train station moving from its current location whereas the Darby Road Extension plan alternative leaves the station in the same place.

It’s exciting to see that the train station  project has completed another hurdle in what has been a very long process — thanks to all that helped with this step!

SEPTA Press Release:

Darby Road Site Selected for Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center

PHILADELPHIA, PA (February 13, 2013)—SEPTA, in conjunction with a consortium of stakeholders, has designated the Darby Road Extension Alternative as the preferred site for the proposed Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center.

The Darby Road Extension Alternative was one of three options presented at the October 2012 Paoli Transportation Visions Open House where over 300 residents and community stakeholders provided their opinions on each alternative. After the event, their feedback was compiled and Gannett Fleming presented SEPTA with an alternative analysis report. Both showed the Darby Road Extension Alternative as the best and most favored option. Under this option, the existing North Valley Road Bridge will be demolished and Darby Road will be extended across Lancaster Avenue over the railroad tracks and with a new bridge to be constructed.

“We considered all of the options and opinions presented,” Robert Lund, SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Engineering Maintenance & Construction said. “It was important for us to hear what the community wanted.”

“The demolition of the outmoded North Valley Road Bridge, and the extension of Darby Road, is a smart, community based solution,” Michelle Kichline Chairman of Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors said. “It is a critical first step in the long planned redevelopment of Paoli and the Transportation center.”

Located in Chester County the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center will be in the heart of the Paoli Business District. It will feature a fully accessible Regional Rail Station that will accommodate SEPTA buses, private carrier shuttle buses, taxis, pedestrians, and cyclists. A large, multi-story parking garage will also be needed as part of the Center. Roadway, streetscape and track improvements are also planned to enhance rail service and improve traffic flow in the area.

“This project is tremendously important to our Paoli community and to the region,” Pennsylvania State Representative Warren Kampf said. “I look forward to working with all stakeholders — especially local residents — and SEPTA on this preferred site. We need to create a Transportation Center that addresses long unsolved problems with the current station, the road network, the parking, the ever-increasing commuter demands and which promises to be a centerpiece of a better downtown Paoli.”

Paoli Station serves approximately 1,300 passengers each day. The station is located along SEPTA’s Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line and AMTRAK’s Philadelphia/Harrisburg Keystone Corridor. SEPTA bus routes 92, 105, 204, 205, and 206 serve the station in addition to private carrier shuttle buses that provide transportation to the Great Valley and Chesterbrook corporate centers.

“The Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center will be a great benefit to the residents of Chester County,” Pennsylvania State Representative Duane Milne said. “The new station will not only allow residents to reach destinations such as Philadelphia or Harrisburg more easily, but it will also benefit the local economy, as well. New businesses will likely open in the area of the new station to accommodate the needs of the many commuters passing through each day. “I am glad that everyone involved in the project came together and made a thoughtful decision on its future location. Having selected a site, now the exciting construction process can begin and this wonderful project will soon become a reality.”

“This is a project that has been literally decades in the making and one that will provide a significant boost to our local economy,” Pennsylvania State Senator Andy Dinniman said. “The new Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center will be a crucial artery for local businesses, commuters, employees and residents throughout the region, as well as a 21st century transportation hub for the downtown Paoli business district. Design improvements will address issues with the current station, such as parking and traffic enhancements and better access for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. But perhaps most importantly, the project will go hand-in-hand with vital rail-line upgrades to Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor train service – upgrades that mean faster trains and shorter travel times for commuters.”

In addition to SEPTA, the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center project has been guided by a consortium of stakeholders consisting of Tredyffrin Township, Willistown Township, AMTRAK, PennDOT, the Chester County and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commissions, elected officials, residents and the business community. For more information about the project, visit http://www.paolionthemove.org/.

Paoli Transportation Center project — Taking Another Step

Monday morning marks the next step for the Paoli Transportation Center project!

Five months ago on January 31, I wrote that SEPTA had awarded a $7.5 million contract to Gannett Fleming for the design of a new Paoli regional rail station and parking garage.  The plan calls for building the new station 80 feet west of the current train station location to better connect SEPTA and private buses.  The plan will involve high-level platforms and the reworking of Amtrak interlocking system.  PennDOT selected Parsons Brinckerhoff for the interlocking design work on the Keystone Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, which include the Paoli Transportation Center. Gannett Fleming design work is to take place through 2014.

At the same time that SEPTA announced its award to Gannett Fleming, the township selected McMahon Associates as the engineering consultant team to complete a study to outline recommendations for the necessary road improvements, including the bridge, needed to support the new transportation center.  The McMahon study will address congestion, public safety and establish a plan for an overall vision for the new train station through traffic calming, streetscape and intersection modifications.  This is a state-funded project and completion is expected by the end of 2013.

Tredyffrin selected Bergmann Associates as the engineering team to design the signal and roadway improvements for the intersection at Rt. 252 and 30.  The design will be based on the 2011 feasibility study.  This design study is state and federally funded and expected to be completed by 2013/14.

Well folks, it looks like the Paoli Transportation project is taking its next step – tomorrow, Monday, June 25 at 7:30 AM, there’s a press conference at Paoli Village Shoppes to officially announce the start of the Paoli Transportation Center project.

Report from Tredyffrin’s Business Development Advisory Committee … I was hoping for ‘New’ news!

Last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting and public hearing for the Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance was another marathon 4-hour meeting, ending at nearly midnight.  An overflow crowd along with Channel 6 ABC news crew attended the early part of the meeting, specifically for the swearing-in ceremony of the police promotions of Lt. Leon Jaskuta, Lt. Taro Landis, Sgt. Ryan Scott, Sgt. Michelle Major and Sgt. Tom Bereda.  Congratulations to these members of Tredyffrin’s police department.

The meeting featured the long-awaited presentation from the Business Development Advisory Committee.  The Board of Supervisors approved the formation of the committee in April 2011 and the committee of six volunteers has worked together for 6 months to create a list of suggestions and recommendations.

According to the township website, the mission of the Business Development Advisory Committee was to … “provide recommendations to the Township Supervisors to enhance the economic vitality of Tredyffrin Township through business retention and attraction in a manner consistent with the character of the Township.  The end result of this ad hoc council will be the development of a series of strategies along with suggested tactics, budgets, resources, and timing required to accomplish the Township’s business development goals.”

As a small business owner in the township, I wanted the committee to thoroughly review the business climate of our community, talk to small business owners, community members, real estate developers and corporate representatives.  To what degree this was this accomplished … I am unclear.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the named community liaisons to the advisory committee was Donna Shipman and she was not contacted.  Beyond a meeting early in the process with Judy Huey and her brother Rob DiSerafino, owners of Paoli Village Shoppes, what other small business owners were contacted by the committee?  As follow-up to her meeting with members of the Business Development Advisory Committee, Judy provided the group with a list of township contacts with phone numbers and email addresses.  I don’t know how many (or if any) on the list were contacted.  I know at least 3 people (including myself) who were not.

Beyond their financial and corporate backgrounds, another reason that the six volunteers were seemingly chosen for this advisory committee was that these individuals were not already involved in the township – they did not sit on commissions or boards in the township. And as I have stated, it was disappointing that no one chosen was a small business owner.  My guess is that by choosing these volunteers they would bring fresh, new ideas and recommendations for improving the economic business climate of the township.

Stanford Nishikawa presented the report from the Business Development Advisory Committee.  Through a power point slide presentation, the report identified the following advantages for doing business in Tredyffrin Township:

•           Low and stables taxes
•           Diversity of employer
•           Transportation/location
•           Excellent school system
•           Existing township efficiencies

Disadvantages for business in Tredyffrin:

•           Land constrained/redevelopment dependent
•           Paoli traffic/parking/walkability
•           Danger of outdated office product

Nishikawa explained there is a real and existing danger in the outdated office space inventory in the township.  The majority of the corporate office space was constructed in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Now 30 years old, the buildings are no longer able to attract the larger employers.  If there is not an investment in office buildings, the higher quality employers will leave.  If investment dollars do not keep up the office space, these buildings will continue to disintegrate.  According to Nishikawa the only lever to pull – dropping rent – will only result in a continued drop in value of the office space, which will drive down the real estate assessment and thus create a longer term problem.

As explained by Nishikawa, there were lots of ideas and they were challenged to vet them.  Under the recommendation context, the following themes were mentioned:

•           Probability of success versus potential benefit versus cost
•           Suggestion to take a holistic approach
•           Create an environment that is business and user friendly
•           Suggest a proactive approach

The report recommended that the township (supervisors?) do the following:

•           Name a senior leadership business liaison
•           Personal touch
•           Promote advantages
•           Modernize zoning codes
•           Create website for commercial users
•           Offer online permitting
•           Education/interaction programs
•           Support the Paoli Transportation project
•           Residential appeal

Here’s where this report failed to inspire or suggest anything that has not already been said before.  Although Nishikawa states a “personal touch” is needed to encourage business development and that the township should promote the advantages of doing business in the township, how is this accomplished?  The welcome wagon, cheerleader approach to attract business is subjective … more like a PR/marketing campaign than something easily accomplished by staff or elected officials.

Nishikawa returned often to the need for elected officials to support the Paoli Transportation project.  He stated that the project has been sitting around for 30 years and that the township needs to do everything it can to move it forward.  An extremely expensive plan, state and federal dollars are needed and the township must help. This is old news – plus, under their ‘disadvantages’ of doing business in Tredyffrin, the report names traffic, parking and walkability as negative issues in Paoli.  Although the report states that there is community support for the train station project, it is also suggests there is concern for its future and the need for elected officials to help move it forward.

Following the presentation from the Business Development Advisory Committee, the question was where do we go from here?  What’s the next step?  A motion was made by the supervisors to put together a plan and add the discussion for the supervisors August meeting to implement the recommendations.

I wanted this advisory committee to do more … I wanted concrete steps for economic development.  One suggestion listed in the report — to create ‘education/interaction programs’ – What? How?  Another suggestion, develop a ‘holistic’ approach to business development … What?  The report states that the township needs to take a ‘proactive’ approach… How? Where are the specifics? What are the suggested steps? 

I have a friend who always tells me, that just because I ‘want something’ to be a certain way, doesn’t mean that it ‘will be’.  The volunteer advisory committee probably believes that their report accomplishes what was requested and that they met the mission’s goals and objectives, but did they?  I restate from the township website, “…The end result of this ad hoc council will be the development of a series of strategies along with suggested tactics, budgets, resources, and timing required to accomplish the Township’s business development goals.”  I expected, and wanted more, in the way of specifics from this Business Development Advisory Committee.

—————————————————————-

I hope to provide other updates from last night’s meeting later today.

Boy Scout’s video of Paoli … Hometown challenges as seen by our children!

Down around the corner
A half a mile from here
You can see them long trains run
And you watch them disappear
Without love
Where would you be now
Without love . . .

   ~ “Long Train Running”, Doobie Brothers

“Long Train Running” is a song written by musician Tom Johnston and recorded by The Doobie Brothers in 1973.  Four decades later, the song provides the background music for a special video produced by a  talented 12-year old township resident.  A seventh grader at Valley Forge Middle School, Michael Pacca is the son of Bob and Tara Pacca and lives in Paoli.

Michael is a Boy Scout and a member of Paoli Troop 1; one of the oldest Boy Scout troops in the United States and the oldest continuously active troop.  Originally founded in 1911, out of the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, the troop has since moved to 20 acres in Wayne.

As one of the steps to becoming an Eagle Scout, Michael worked on his Citizen in the Community merit badge.  The final of eight requirements for this merit badge, Michael needed to:

“Develop a public presentation (such as a video, slide show, speech, digital presentation, or photo exhibit) about important and unique aspects of your community. Include information about the history, cultures, and ethnic groups of your community; its best features and popular places where people gather; and the challenges it faces. Stage your presentation in front of your merit badge counselor or a group, such as your patrol or a class at school.”

Boy Scout merit badges give scouts the opportunity to investigate around 120 different areas of knowledge and skills. The merit badge program plays a major role in the scouting advancement program and participation can begin as soon as a scout registers with a troop. Each scout can explore topics from American Business to Woodworking as he has interest. To reach Eagle rank, a scout must complete at least 21 Boy Scout merit badges listing them in his handbook, 12 of which come from the Eagle-required badge list – the Citizen in the Community merit badge is on the required list.

To fulfill the Citizen in the Community merit badge requirement, Michael created a video about his hometown – Paoli.  Michael spent several hours taking photos of Paoli and the surrounding area, and then created a video with the music ‘Long Train Running’ as the backdrop. After watching the video several times, it is clear that Michael not only accomplished the assignment but also far exceeded the requirements in level of quality and creativity.

Michael’s video is important on a number of levels; it highlights the talents of a creative young mind and fulfills a requirement for a wonderful organization, Boy Scouts of America.  However, beyond that, this is a video that I encourage everyone to watch.  It may be only four minutes long but as the music fades out, there is such poignancy to the photos as seen through the lens of young man’s camera.

The condition of the train station and the vacant storefronts do not escape the eyes of our children . . . this is their hometown.

I was struck how Michael accurately captured the “challenges that the community faces” in his video. When asked what he thought was the ‘greatest’ challenge facing Paoli, his response, the “train station”.   What businesses would Michael like to see filling the empty storefronts along Paoli’s Lancaster Avenue – a movie theater and an ice cream store! A 12-year old response but an answer that many of us could agree with.

A budding movie maker and a talented musician, Michael chose the Doobie Brothers background music himself, thinking that the ‘Long Train Coming’ song just suited Paoli and its train station.

I was overwhelmed by Michael’s photography skills … the depth in the images and a gift for composition and perspective that truly belies his young age.  In fact, I was so impressed by his talents that I signed him up as one of the official Paoli Blues Fest photographers – he then tells me that he can create a blues fest video from the photos!  What a great kid!

Michael plans to continue making movies – he and his friends have future ideas for making other videos, including scripts, costumes, props, and sound effects. Based on this and other videos that I have seen by Michael, all I can say is Steven Spielberg had better watch out!

Michael Pacca of Paoli, PA – video click here.

Paoli Transportation Center Project Takes Big Steps Forward – A Letter-of-Interest Request Issued by Tredyffrin Township and Request-for-Proposal Issued by SEPTA!

Plans Afoot For Troubled Paoli Rail Yard, Can It Become A Transportation Center With Buses And Better Parking?”

This Philadelphia Inquirer headline above was not written this week, this month, this year — no, the article is seventeen years old, dating from September 14, 1994!

This years-old Inquirer article focused on the possibility of turning the “problematic Paoli rail yard into a sophisticated intermodal transportation center” which would accommodate “a transportation center, complete with buses and improved parking.” Can it be that the dream, this vision for the future may still be possible?  Maybe so.

At the last Board of Supervisors Meeting, I was disappointed that the supervisors did not update on the process of the Paoli Transportation Center.  There had been previous discussion about an upcoming issuance of a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) on the N. Valley/Central Avenue road and bridge improvement project (part of the Paoli Transportation Center project) and I was seeking an update — specifically was an RFP issued?  If so, what was the status, how many bidders, due date, etc.

Many of us have followed the saga of the train station for years, and remain interested in the progress (if any) on the project.  My intention in asking for an official public update was certainly not to step on the toes of either the township staff or our elected officials, but just to seek information.  What’s the old adage, “Ask and ye shall receive”? I was asking the questions, but I guess I wasn’t asking the right way or to the right people.

Although not listed on the township website, I discovered with some Internet research that the Tredyffrin Township Engineering Department has issued a ‘Letter of Interest’ for the “Paoli Road Improvement Project – Feasibility Study and Public Involvement Program”. According to the township’s Letter of Interest request, all phases of the Feasibility Study will be 100% state funded and that the township is encouraging responses from small firms and firms that have not previously done work for the township.

The township’s public Letter of Interest advertisement gives the full solicitation details on the Paoli Road Improvement Project and includes the following:

Tredyffrin Township Letter of Interest Request:

Paoli Road Improvement Project – Feasibility Study and Public Improvement Program

Tredyffrin Township will retain a PADOT qualified engineering and public involvement consultant team to provide a feasibility study and public involvement and outreach program to assess the traffic, roadway, infrastructure and community stakeholder needs, and identify potential alternatives for the existing local and PADOT roadway network located in Paoli, in the vicinity of S.R. 0030 (Lancaster Avenue), E./W. Central Avenues, Paoli Pike/ Greenwood Avenue, Darby Road, Plank Avenue and N./S. Valley Roads. The Township seeks a feasibility study that provides cost effective alternatives to allow for traffic calming, streetscape, intersection modification, and signal timing adjustments to address existing congestion and public safety concerns while providing for the needs of motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, rail users and the overall vision for a multi-modal Paoli.

Alternatives included in the feasibility study should emphasize solutions that meet current PADOT design and safety standards, and the local stakeholder and Township vision for the Paoli Transportation and Town Center Districts. In addition to the Feasibility Study, an intensive coordinated public outreach and stakeholder involvement process must parallel the identified Feasibility Study phases to ensure final recommendations have been thoroughly discussed, stakeholder input received while ultimately working toward a consensus on roadway improvements for consideration and prioritization for future design and construction phases of the project.

The township’s Letter of Interest words, “. . .  intensive coordinated public outreach and stakeholder involvement process . . .” aligns with my request that the public remain ‘in the loop’ and informed on the process of this important community project.

The list of companies already registered to submit a Letter of Interest to the township on the Paoli transportation project is impressive!  To date, 50+ companies have registered, including local companies from Wayne, Malvern, West Chester, Collegeville, Exton and Kimberton and several companies from Lancaster, Gettysburg, New Jersey and Delaware.  Source Management Onvia of Seattle, Washington has also registered to bid the project!  Letters of interest are due by bidders to the township by 2 PM on September 15, 2011. It is my understanding that registration does not necessarily imply that all registered companies will submit a Letter of Interest.

According to the Letter of Interest advertisement by the township, the evaluation and selection process by Tredyffrin Twp is:

For the purposes of negotiating a contract, the ranking of a minimum of three (3) firms will be done directly from the Letters of Interest. Technical proposals will not be required prior to the ranking. Only the top three (3) firms will be requested to prepare technical proposals. The top three (3) firms will then be ranked based off the Technical Proposal and the top firm will be requested to submit a cost proposal.

In another big step for the Paoli Transportation Center project, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has issued a Request-for-Proposal, Proposal Number 11-091-DMH for qualified “Consultants for Architectural/Engineering Services for Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center”.

SEPTA’s A&E Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center RFP description states:

Consultant services include, but are not limited: the development of construction documents (plans and specifications) for the construction of the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center in accordance with the scope of work of this RFP and in full compliance ADA and other governing authorities.   The deadline for proposals is September 7, 2011.

The issuance of a Letter of Interest by Tredyffrin Twp and a Request-for-Proposal from SEPTA is positive and encouraging news for the community on the Paoli Transportation Center project and marks real progress in this long journey.

As Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

Paoli Transportation Center and economic redevelopment – Important community issues or simply political campaign fodder

Unfortunately, in between primary and general election campaign season, the [Paoli] train station is once again relegated to the backstage, waiting for its starring role on the next glossy campaign flyer. Does the transportation project only exist as a political campaign talking point? 

Following-up on my last Community Matters post, I was looking forward to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday night.  I had emailed the Board of Supervisors requesting two items for the meeting agenda – (1) official public update on the Paoli Transportation Center project and (2) an update on the Economic Development Committee.  Assured via email from the township manager that, “Both items will be addressed during the meeting.  If they don’t come up earlier, Bob will raise them during BOS comments” , I looked forward the public status report. Although neither item was listed on the agenda, I was confident that these important topics would be discussed during the meeting.  Further, Mimi copied the seven supervisors on her email to me, so everyone was seemingly on the same page.

The meeting progressed with no mention made of either topic.  There was approval for a community initiative grant for zoning ordinance update but no discussion of the Economic Development Committee that was approved back on April 4.  Look around at the empty storefronts, the vacant box stores and leasing agent signs on many corporate buildings . . . Tredyffrin Township is no longer exempt from the economic woes of every other community in the country.  But where is the importance and priority from our elected officials?

The Paoli Transportation Center . . . there was no update, no discussion, not a mention.  Does the transportation project exist simply as a political campaign talking point?  Do our community leaders only discuss the transportation center and place an importance on the project during campaign season? Where is the advocacy and enthusiasm for the train station project and economic redevelopment from our elected officials?

How many local candidates over the last two decades have used the train station project in their campaign promises to voters?  The answer . . . many! The Paoli Transportation Center project deserves more attention than use as campaign fodder. And remember, what is most significant is what you do with those campaign promises, once elected! 

The last substantial movement on the Paoli Transportation Center project was June 21, 2010 with then State Rep. Paul Drucker’s announcement of $1 million in state funding for the project. On Community Matters that day, I wrote . . . “Today’s announcement signifies a new beginning for Paoli and for the larger community . . . a day to celebrate!”  After fourteen months, shouldn’t the public expect a progress report?

Immediately following the Monday’s supervisors meeting, I asked Mimi for an explanation as to ‘why’ there was no update on the train station (and the Economic Development Committee) when she had previously said there would be — her response, “I guess Bob forgot”. 

How does one forget these important issues?  The other supervisors — did they likewise ‘forget’, was theirs a calculated political decision or worse yet, do they simply not care?

Unfortunately, in between the primary and general election campaign season, the train station is once again relegated to the backstage, waiting for its starring role on the next glossy campaign flyer.

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The update on the proposed sidewalk ordinance and sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club from Monday’s Public Hearing to follow.

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