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Phoenixville group studies a rail option

It wants to explore expanding the planned route in another direction - into Montco.

The Phoenixville group that wants to establish passenger rail service to connect their town with the Great Valley Corporate Center and Paoli is now also considering whether to expand that proposed route in another direction, into Montgomery County.

Citizens for the Train, a committee of the Phoenixville Community Development Corporation, made the decision after a $15,000 assessment by Tom Hickey of Gannett Fleming, a Philadelphia engineering consulting firm, for what is being called the Phoenixville-Main Line Rail Link.

The original plan calls for using a Norfolk Southern rail line that parallels Route 29 from Phoenixville to Devault. The remaining distance to the Paoli transportation center, served by SEPTA and Amtrak, would have to be built on an existing right of way.

In the assessment, Hickey listed several options for extension of the proposed line. One would take the line from the borough east via the Norfolk Southern's Phoenixville line to Oaks along U.S. Route 422. Another would continue it north to corporate centers in Arcola, also along 422.

The assessment estimates the costs of construction at $15 million per mile. The distance from Phoenixville to Paoli is about 10 miles. Extensions to Oaks and Arcola would add a total of about three miles.

"Based on proposed costs for other rail projects, the cost is not outrageously high," Hickey said.

Barry Cassidy of the Community Development Corporation said he was hoping to have the next phase of the study underway by July 1 and completed by the end of the year. It's expected to cost $250,000. The organization is hoping to fund it without government money.

"We'll have to do some corporate fund-raising," said Cassidy, who added that the trains' organization has grown from 26 to 89 members.

Cassidy has had some preliminary talks with Norfolk Southern regarding purchase of the Phoenixville to Devault line. Service on about seven miles of the line, which had been used solely for freight traffic, has been suspended for several years.

Rick Crawford of the Norfolk Southern said the railroad is seeking to discontinue operations on most of the line to Devault.

"We've met and told them [the citizens group] to get back to us when they have some more details," Crawford said.