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Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority hires interim executive director

The Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority has hired an interim executive director to lead the effort of restoring passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia.

At the authority’s monthly meeting Monday afternoon, the authority voted unanimously to bring on Thomas Frawley to help lead the effort of officials in Berks, Montgomery and Chester counties to revive passenger rail service by formalizing agreements, pursuing funding and partnering with rail operators and state and federal transportation agencies.

Thomas Frawley
Thomas Frawley

Frawley has more than 40 years of experience in transportation systems planning, development, design, engineering, procurement, construction, operation and management. As principal of the Berwyn-based Thomas Frawley Consulting, he has focused primarily in public transit and passenger rail, working with organizations including the Virginia Railway Express, Amtrak, the California High Speed Rail Authority and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Frawley has also worked on a feasibility study for a Phoenixville task force about the potential restoration of passenger rail service between Phoenixville and Philadelphia, giving him insight regarding potential regional rail ridership and an understanding of institutional issues.

Frawley will be paid $100 an hour for up to 25 hours a week.

Greater Reading Chamber Alliance President Jim Gerlach, who serves on the personnel committee, said the committee felt Frawley was the best candidate for the post following conversations with four people who expressed interest in the position.

“We are excited to have Tom Frawley join us,” he said. “He has a wealth of experience not only with authorities such as this, but also dealing with Amtrak directly on rail transportation projects.”

Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach, authority chairman, said Frawley will provide important leadership.

“Tom brings to the role his immense professional expertise, as well as a personal interest as a resident of the region who understands the value a Reading-to-Philadelphia rail service will mean for the economy and for everyone who lives here,” he said.

The authority also approved a budget plan that will carry the authority through 2025.

Montgomery County Planning Commission Director Scott France, who serves as the chairman of the planning committee, said the budget will help the finance officers in the three counties as they plan for the upcoming budget season and the additional county contributions as needed.

The authority has budgeted a total of just under $1.3 million for the three-plus-year span. From October through the end of the year, $82,630 has been budgeted, while $378,140 has been budgeted for 2023.

Expenses are estimated to be $410,734 in 2024 and $423,056 in 2025.

The only income listed in the budget through 2025 is from county contributions. With the three counties sharing the expense equally, each will provide $431,520.
For the remainder of 2022, that number is $27,543 per county.

The budget acknowledges the expected payment of the interim executive director as well as the likely cost of the consulting firm the authority hired last month to help navigate the technical and political aspects of the passenger rail project.

It also includes operating expenses over the next three years.

France said the budget does not address potential capital investments that could be made or large-scale studies that may take place because the authority is not yet aware of the costs. He did, however, stress there are already some additional funding sources lined up in the form of federal and state dollars.

“For now, this represents the way that the counties plan on funding the authority at least for the next three years,” he said.

Source: Berkshire mont

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