READING, Pa. – The Berks County commissioners announced Thursday they will meet with representatives of Chester and Montgomery counties later this month to discuss the formation of a tri-county passenger rail committee.
Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach said the commissioners voted last week at an operations meeting to endorse the formation of a tri-county passenger rail committee to advance the effort of restoring passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia.
The action was in response to new studies from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Berks Alliance, a local group that endorses the restoration of train service.
Leinbach said prior to Thursday's meeting that all three commissioners were on a call hosted by state Sen. Judy Schwank and included PennDOT representatives as well as Berks County Democratic and Republican legislative officials.
The meeting of the three counties will take place Feb. 22.
"The purpose of the committee will be to ultimately vet the rail strategies, determine next steps and recommend action to the authorities they represent," Leinbach said. "Each county will have three committee members and be able to bring in technical members."
The committee will not have any authority to act independently.
Leinbach said the county's goal in participating is to be transparent.
Citing previous attempts, Leinbach said the problems with past studies is that they took place behind closed doors.
"The process has to be open and transparent to the media and to the public each step of the way," he said.
Passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia ended in 1981. Since that time, multiple studies have been conducted with recommendations on how to restore the service.
In order for the service to be restored, Norfolk Southern would have to allow its freight tracks to be used for passenger service.
In other business, the commissioners voted to approve an ordinance for the issuance of $30.5 million in general obligation notes.
The issuance is for the sole purpose of refinancing $30.5 million in existing debt.
Michael Vind, managing director of FinancialS&Lutions, recommended the action to allow the county to take advantage of savings from historically low interest rates.
Vind noted the action will not extend the existing debt, but will save the county $1.6 million.
No appointment or doctor's order is needed, but patients are asked to arrive with a photo ID or insurance card.
Also Thursday, Brian Gottschall, the county's director of emergency services, shared more information about the state department of health's pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic, which will start Saturday and continue through next Wednesday.
The clinic will take place at Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom Synagogue, 555 Warwick Drive in Wyomissing from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily.
Gottschall stressed that the clinic is for testing only and not vaccinations, and he asked members of the public to avoid contacting the synagogue for information about the clinic.