READING, Pa. – The Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority heard a recommendation Monday afternoon from its adviser that the head of its executive committee go to Washington DC in February for meetings with members of Congress and other key officials.
John Robert Smith is the chairman of Transportation for America, which was selected by the authority as a consultant earlier this year.
The authority is a joint venture between Berks, Montgomery and Chester Counties and is tasked with the long-term restoration of passenger rail service from Reading to Philadelphia.
“We propose to visit Washington, D.C. in February, to meet not only with your delegation, but with every chairman and senior member of every committee that has jurisdiction in the House and 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 visit the country’s capital until February.
“You don’t want to go to DC in January,” he said. “The dust will not have settled yet. They will still be busy with committee appointments and personnel shifts between committees and personal offices.
Smith said the first visit could pave the way for federal funds for the passenger rail project.
The authority has already expressed 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 release its first report to Congress on the Corridor ID program next month.
Official funding applications will begin in 2023.
Smith also said it will be critical to work with U.S. Senator-elect John Fetterman.
“Keep in mind that Senator Fetterman is going to be a very, very important card to play,” Smith explained. “The administration clearly wants to see his success. Having time with the Senator and his new staff will be critical to you so he can get your message across to FRA and Amtrak and DOT.
The authority’s interim director, Tom Frawley, said he will prepare calendars for the weeks of Feb. 20 and 27 to determine which conferences may conflict with a possible 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.