Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Peter Monaghan

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.”

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?


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.

Questions Posed to State Representative Candidates . . . Should Voters Expect Responses from Drucker & Kampf

Voters can visit the campaign websites of State House 157 candidates Paul Drucker and Warren Kampf and read about the issues . . . explore how the candidates feel about jobs, economy, spending, education, environment, etc. Using social media as an integral component of their campaigns, the candidates suggest that you follow them on Twitter, become their Facebook fan . . . sign up for email updates, etc. Drucker and Kampf give voters contact information including special campaign email addresses and encourage questions or comments from the public. Just this week, Kampf tweeted, “. . . if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact the campaign at”

Representing Community Matters, I recently contacted each of the candidates through their campaign websites. Based on Community Matters discussion and questions posed from readers, my questions to Drucker and Kampf were straightforward and non-confrontational. Candidates encourage questions from the public so I asked each a question and the results are in . . . below are the questions that I posed to Drucker and Kampf and their respective responses.

Recently, Drucker presented a $1 million check from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to Strategic Realty for phase 1 funding of the Paoli Transit Center. In the press release, Drucker stated that the project would “. . . ultimately create more than 5,000 construction jobs and more than 2,000 permanent jobs in Paoli.”

My question to Drucker: Could you please provide the analysis for the 2,000 permanent jobs in Paoli that would be provided by the Paoli Transit Center Project?

Peter Monaghan, president of Strategic Realty provided Rep Drucker with further details on temporary job and permanent job estimates for the Paoli Transit Center Project. Estimates for permanent job creation are based on the square footage of planned office, retail and residential space. The private development component of the Paoli Transit Center project will yield approx. 300,000 sq. ft of office space, 75,000 sf of retail space and 525,000 sf of residential space. The formula for permanent jobs is as follows:

  • Retail: 75,000 sf @ 1 job/500sf = 150 jobs
  • Office: 300,000 sf @ 1 job/200sf = 1,500 jobs
  • Residential: 525,000 sf @ 1 job/10,000sf = 53 jobs
  • Transit: 50 jobs

A recent post on Community Matters prompted 80+ comments (including Phoenixville Councilman Ken Buckwalter). The subject of the post – the current FBI investigation of local attorney Jeffrey Rotwitt for his role in the Family Court land development project scandal in Philadelphia. In April, Rotwitt hosted a campaign fundraiser for State Rep candidate Warren Kampf. As a result of Kampf’s association with Jeffrey Rotwitt, Rep. Drucker released a statement calling for Kampf to return of money raised at the Rotwitt fundraiser. Hoping to provide Kampf an opportunity to respond to Drucker and to the resident’s interest in the topic, I contacted Kampf for a response.

My question to Kampf: Do you have an official response to Mr. Drucker concerning the FBI investigation of Mr. Rotwitt and money raised at your April political campaign fundraiser hosted by Mr. Rotwitt?

Unfortunately, there was not a response to my email by Kampf nor any acknowledgement of my communication. Not receiving a reply, I sent a follow-up email that repeated the question . . . to date, there remains no response. For me, I am left to wonder why Mr. Kampf sent this tweet to his followers “. . . if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact the campaign at”

Will Ardmore Transit Center’s Funding Issues Impact the Future of Paoli Transportation Center?

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.

Strategic Realty Investments to be Master Developer for Paoli Rail Yards

I just received notice from State Rep Paul Drucker’s office with the following press release from Harrisburg. Strategic Realty Investments has officially been named as the master developer for the Paoli rail yard redevelopment project. I know Peter Monaghan personally, one of the principals of Strategic Realty Investments, and I appalud the choice. Peter is a wonderful, community-spirited person and this project will be greatly helped with him at the helm! This is good news for the community.

Developer chosen for Paoli rail yards

HARRISBURG, Dec. 16 – State Rep. Paul Drucker, D-Chester/Montgomery, said today that Strategic Realty Investments has been selected as master developer for the Paoli rail yards, a 20-acre site located in Tredyffrin and Willistown townships.

The developer will team with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Amtrak, the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Tredyffrin and Willistown townships, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and numerous stakeholders to create a new mixed-use development on the former brownfield.

The site will be home to the new Paoli Transportation Center, which is expected to include a modern train station to accommodate hundreds of daily riders and a state-of-the-art garage.

“I believe there is no more important initiative in the Paoli area that could simultaneously help business economic development as well as improve the quality of life for local residents, and it is encouraging to see progress is continuing,” said Drucker. “This announcement is the latest indication that all our hard work is paying off and that the new station and surrounding development will become a reality.”

“Transportation infrastructure is the heart and soul of economic development and this project is a prime example of how public transportation is a vital part of local economies,” said state Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Allegheny, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “My sincere thanks and congratulations go to Representative Drucker for bringing this important project to my attention, and for his enthusiastic support and persistence through the process.”

Drucker said funding for the project is expected to come from private and public sources, including potential American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding.

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