The old Franklin Street train station in Reading is welcoming its first passengers for the first time since trains to and from Philadelphia stopped rolling more than three decades ago.
BARTA is using the former train station as a bus depot, and the first bus rolled off the lot early Monday morning, launching a new route between downtown Reading and the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg.
The new route, being offered on a trial basis, is the result of a partnership between BARTA and Lebanon Transit, with BARTA operating the Reading to Lebanon run and LT providing service between Lebanon and Harrisburg.
The out-of-county service, a first for BARTA, was a longtime goal of the agency's late executive director, Dennis Louwerse, who died suddenly last Thursday after more than 30 years on the job.
The first bus to Lebanon on Monday displayed a tribute to Louwerse on its message board -- "Thanks Dennis -- You gave it all."
Louwerse realized his dream of restoring the old Franklin Street station when the finished work was celebrated with much fanfare in May.
The station would also handle commuter trains if efforts to restore service become successful.
Louwerse's funeral service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Porterfield-Scheid Funeral Home, 890 Isabel Dr., Lebanon. Visitation will begin at 5 p.m.