READING, Pa. — With President Joe Biden signing a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law Monday, the chairman of Berks County's board of commissioners said the county has never been so close to restoring passenger rail service.
"There are a number of steps that have to happen," Commissioner Christian Leinbach said of the path toward restoring Reading's passenger rail service. It's been 40 years since the city has had such service.
"This bipartisan infrastructure bill," Leinbach said, "it definitely brings us closer to the objective of restoration of passenger rail service."
Leinbach chairs the tri-county passenger rail committee, which consists of Berks, Montgomery and Chester counties. He said there are three major considerations when it comes to restoring passenger rail.
"One, there is no question that Amtrak is in a much stronger position as a potential operator for this line based on the money allocated in the bipartisan infrastructure bill to Amtrak," Leinbach said.
He said another consideration is that there's a focus on passenger rail in the bill, part of what Leinbach said makes a line stretching from Reading to Philadelphia very attractive. In addition, lines could run on to New York or Washington D.C.
"And that is, they're looking to reconnect either underserved or unserved communities," Leinbach said.
Still, he said, that doesn't mean restoration of the rail service is definite.
Currently, the tri-county passenger rail committee is focusing on the next step, which is to form a tri-county passenger rail authority.
"That authority is necessary in order to accept funds, in order to execute additional studies," Leinbach said.
He explained that a capacity study on the Norfolk Southern tracks between Reading and Norristown would next need to be done.
While there are plenty more steps to go, Leinbach said he's cautiously optimistic the passenger rail service could be restored in the next five-plus years, but nothing is definite.
"I would say to the public, we're at a point in the process at which we've never been before," Leinbach said.