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READING, Pa. – The Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority on Monday afternoon heard a recommendation from its consultant to have its executive committee head to Washington D.C. in February to have meetings with members of Congress and other key officials.

John Robert Smith is the chairman for Transportation for America, which was selected by the authority as its consultant earlier this year.

The authority is a joint venture between Berks, Montgomery and Chester Counties and is tasked with the long-term goal of restoring passenger rail service from Reading to Philadelphia.

“We're suggesting a visit to Washington, DC in February to meet with not only your delegation, but every chair and ranking member of every committee that has jurisdiction in the House and the Senate, both appropriations and authorization, and with FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and DOT (Department of Transportation) officials, and if possible, with the White House itself,” Smith said.

Smith warned that it is not advisable to make the visit to the nation’s capital until February.

“You don't want to go to DC in January,” he said. “The dust will not have settled yet. They'll still be scraping over committee appointments and shifting of staff among committees and among personal offices.”

Smith said the initial visit could set the stage for federal funds for the passenger rail project.

The authority has already submitted its interest to the Federal Railroad Administration in the Corridor Identification Development Program, which will provide federal funds for infrastructure projects in the United States.

Smith said the FRA will make its first report to Congress on the corridor ID program next month.

Official applications for funding will begin in 2023.

Smith also said working with U.S. Senator-Elect John Fetterman will be critical.

“Keep in mind that Senator Fetterman is going to be a very, very important card that you have to play,” Smith explained. “The administration obviously wants to see his success. Having the time with the senator and his new staff will be critically important to you so that he can provide your message to FRA and Amtrak and DOT.”

The authority’s interim executive director Tom Frawley said he will prepare calendars for the weeks of Feb. 20 and 27 to determine what conferences might cause conflicts with a potential visit to Capitol Hill.

The executive committee is composed of Frawley, Chester County Commissioner Marian Moskowitz, Montgomery County Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence and Berks County Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach.

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