The $180 million Ardmore Transit Center planned for downtown Ardmore shares many similarities with the vision many are planning for the Paoli Transportation Center. Ardmore’s downtown facelift is to include replacing the existing train station plus a new Main Street area with 500-car parking garage, stores and a five-story apartment building. The project is set to completely revitalize the historic community of Ardmore by the creation of a new mixed-use village much like what is planned for Paoli.
The developer for the Ardmore project, Dranoff Properties of Philadelphia is asking Lower Merion Commissioners for a one-year extension claiming design issues with Amtrak. In December, Dranoff learned that Amtrak will be upgrading its electrification system in 10 years and the overhead power lines needs to be factored in to the planned design; resulting in at least a 6 months delay. Dranoff’s extension request will be discussed at Lower Merion’s next commissioner meeting. However, residents are learning that there is more than design delays, there are money problems due to SEPTA. If you recall, SEPTA had made a big publicity splash with its announcement of 22 capital projects. However, now SEPTA is saying these projects may have to wait indefinitely. SEPTA’s contribution to the Ardmore Transit Center was to be $10 million – SEPTA’s general manager Joseph Casey is blaming Washington, pointing the finger at the federal government’s decision not to add tolls to Pennsylvania’s I-80.
The Ardmore Transit Center has been bogged down by one problem or another since the project originally launched in 2004 with a federal grant. Just 2 years ago, the original developer pulled out of the project and was replaced by Dranoff Properties. Last year, Carl Dranoff of Dranoff Properties and township commissioners said they were counting on $5.8 million from the Federal Transit Administration, $6 million in state funding for the 500-car parking garage, $10 million from SEPTA, and $250,000 from Montgomery County.
This past Friday, St. Joseph’s University hosted a state House transportation and policy meeting where SEPTA’s general manager revealed that insufficient funding from Washington was forcing SEPTA to cut $110 million from its capital budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Although extremely frustrating, Dranoff and Lower Merion officials appear to be optimistic that their money troubles will be resolved and that project will go forward. Or is this going to be another sign of the economics of our times where we see major projects such as infrastructure repairs on roads and bridges, transportation centers, etc. all put on indefinite ‘hold’?
Hearing the news on the Ardmore Transit Center project, Rep Jim Gerlach (R) responded, “. . . I am becoming increasingly concerned that continuing delays will ultimately threaten the federal funds I have already worked to obtain. Rather than asking for more delays, the residents and taxpayers deserve a redoubling of efforts by all parties – Amtrak, SEPTA, the township, and the developer – to get this project done as expeditiously as possible.”
So what exactly does this news mean for the Paoli Transportation Center? SEPTA forced to cut their capital budget by $110 million, doesn’t that impact the future of our economic revitalization project in Paoli? Since Ardmore started their transportation center project before Paoli, it would seem that their project is ahead of us for SEPTA, state and federal funding.
I would like for State Rep Paul Drucker to weigh in on the status of funding for Paoli’s transportation center. As the developer for the Paoli Transportation Center, maybe Peter Monaghan of Strategic Realty Investments could comment as to whether he thinks Ardmore’s funding situation with their transit center will have an impact on Paoli’s redevelopment project.