The long-awaited Ardmore Transit Center moves into the public arena again this evening with the mulling over of options for the development by a committee of the Lower Merion commissioners. A multi-million dollar funding shortage has hamstrung the project.

The meeting takes place at the township building, 75 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, at 6 p.m.

"The meeting is to present the four options," said Angela Murray, the township's assistant director of community and economic development. Murray said the commissioners' Economic Revitalization Committee is expected to receive recommendations from the Ad Hoc Ardmore Committee, a loose affiliation of citizens, Ardmore merchants and community activists that has put in its two cents on the transit project.

Once an option has been selected by the commissioners, the design work on the project, which had stopped, will resume. Necessary zoning changes will be identified, and go back to the commissioners for a vote. In addition, approvals from SEPTA and Amtrak will need to be secured, along with any promised funds. Murray said.

The process is expected to continue through the end of 2011, with construction to begin in late 2012 at the earliest. In the meantime, Murray said, other sources of income need to be explored.

"The township and [Carl] Dranoff Properties continue to work with our partners, SEPTA and Amtrak to identify sources to address the funding gap," Murray said.

The meeting occurs against a background of impatience from activists and merchants who have told township officials that more parking is a critical need, if their businesses and the town of Ardmore are to survive as healthyeconomic entities.

Small towns along the Main Line like Ardmore and Bryn Mawr are struggling to attract visitors and customers, despite an active Main Line First Friday program, a resilient Bryn Mawr Film Institute, and various business people's associations.

"Ardmore won't die if nothing happens. Ardmore will die if the wrong thing happens," blogger and civic activist Carla Zambelli said today on the Save Ardmore Coalition website.

When last we covered this story on St. Patrick's Day, the proposals had grown to include a garage, apartments and stores in a project facing Cricket Avenue, on the parking lot behind the former Bryn Mawr movie theater.

It was unclear where that left plans for a bigger garage and Main Street retail development on the north side of Lancaster Avenue, or how that would dovetail  with a makeover for the Ardmore Train station, which was the impetus for the improvements in the first place.