Six Philly-Area Rail Proposals That Never Came to Be (But Still Could)

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Illustration by Nick Massarelli

Schuylkill Valley Metro

Proposed: Early 1990s.
Goal: Light metro from Center City to Reading.
Proponents: Montco officials hoping to stimulate economic development.
Opponents: The city was lukewarm; rail advocates thought the project was politically motivated.
Fate: Years later, then-gov Ed Rendell pronounced the project dead when the FTA rejected a funding proposal.

Cross-County Metro

Proposed: Early 1990s.
Goal: Connect communities from Trenton to Downingtown along a former Pennsylvania Railroad line.
Proponents: See: Schuylkill Valley Metro.
Opponents: Rail advocates, claiming it was a waste of money.
Fate: A federally funded study found little interest from prospective riders. It died quietly after that.

West Chester Branch Restoration

Proposed: 2011.
Goal: Restore service from Elwyn to West Chester.
Proponents: West Chester.
Opponents: None at present.
Fate: Restoration as far as Wawa is now under way, with service expected to resume in 2020. A new study by PennDOT and SEPTA wrapped earlier this year.

Bethlehem Branch Restoration

Proposed: 2000.
Goal: Bring back service between Lansdale and Quakertown.
Proponents: Montco and Bucks communities along the line.
Opponents: None at present.
Fate: Current plans call for restoring service as far as Perkasie. DVRPC and SEPTA are scouting for funding.

Newtown Branch Restoration

Proposed: Mid-1980s.
Goal: Restore service between Fox Chase and Newtown.
Proponents: Growth-minded Bucks County officials.
Opponents: Montco communities along the line, who cherish their peace and quiet.
Fate: After a test using diesel railcars proved disappointing and an attempt to electrify the line flopped, Montco converted part of the route to a trail.

Glassboro-Camden Line

Proposed: 1996.
Goal: Light rail from Camden to Rowan U.
Proponents: Glassboro and Gloucester County officials targeting population and job growth.
Opponents: Wenonah residents voted against a station in their town.
Fate: Uncertainty over who’d run the line quashed an environmental study in 2014. Study resumed last August; line operation remains unclear.

Published as “Rails to Nowhere” in the March 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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