The state has granted $1 million to build a solar-power field on part of a Superfund site at the Paoli rail yard, as part of a plan for a new transportation facility, officials announced Monday.
The panels will cover three acres at the west end of the rail yard, across from Central Avenue. Construction is to begin in the fall and be complete by the end of the year.
Energy from the panels will feed into a substation in the yard that provides electricity for SEPTA's Paoli-Thorndale line and Amtrak. The panels will provide 2 percent of the energy used daily by Amtrak and SEPTA.
The panels are part of a $50 million project to build a Paoli train station and parking garage several blocks west of the current facility. The substation would also be replaced.
No starting date is set for the project, which is awaiting state and federal funding. If the money were made available soon, the station could be completed as early as 2012, officials said.
"The redevelopment of this station won't only help Paoli; it will link a whole region," said State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.). "It also means a lot for jobs in this area."
The development firm, Strategic Realty Investments L.L.C., of Devon, will build the panels under the supervision of Tredyffrin and Willistown Townships.
On the parcel, concrete containers now hold soil contaminated from chemicals used to cool railcar transformers years ago. Cleaning up the Superfund site cost $20 million.
"The nice irony is that we're building these panels on an area that four years ago was a junkyard," said Peter Monaghan, chief investment officer with Strategic Realty. Work on the panels will create 40 jobs, Monaghan said.
The construction will be funded by the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, State Rep. Paul J. Drucker (D., Chester) said Monday.
Drucker said he was eager to see the plan come together: "The station's a hole. It's an embarrassment. But if we fix it, it'll be so much more."
Commuters on Monday said parking was an issue, as were the aesthetics of the barracks-looking station, safety, and the long lines of buses that clog East Lancaster Pike.
Mike Lynch, 34, of West Chester, uses the Paoli train to get to Temple University, where he teaches. He called it one of the worst stations on the line.
"It reeks of a more industrial look. It's always in a state of disrepair," he said, and "it leaks when it rains." Lynch said the steps and bridge that ommuters must cross to get from one side of the tracks to the other can get icy in the winter.
"It's pretty unappealing," he said.