Jul. 26--Next stop, suburbia.
The CorridorOne passenger rail system plans to build a train station in East Hempfield Township, easing travel for thousands of Lancaster County residents.
The $2.5 million station would be part of the immense Independence "livable community" project, proposed for the southeast corner of Route 283 and State Road.
CorridorOne intends to use existing Amtrak tracks to provide service between Lancaster and Harrisburg more frequently and less expensively than Amtrak does.
CorridorOne hopes to start service in late 2008 and open the Independence station at about the same time, assuming the 300-acre housing and commercial development goes forward.
John Ward, president of CorridorOne's developer, the Modern Transit Partnership, sees the new station serving travelers who live in the north, west and southwest suburbs of Lancaster City.
The new station, between Landisville and East Petersburg, would be more convenient for those residents than the Lancaster Amtrak station in the city, he said.
"We want to be accessible to people who'd ride the train," said Ward. "Mainly, that's commuters, but it's also people who're going shopping, for the arts or to a sporting event."
The CorridorOne system would have stops at Mount Joy, Elizabethtown, Middletown, Harrisburg International Airport and downtown Harrisburg as well.
The Independence station would serve not only people heading to and from Harrisburg, he said.
It also would serve people heading to and from Lancaster City, going to Clipper Magazine Stadium or other destinations there, or connecting with Amtrak to go beyond Lancaster City.
Ward said that much of the Independence station's cost would come from needing to spread apart the eastbound and westbound tracks, to make room for a passenger platform.
The 300-foot-long platform would be linked by elevator to an overhead walkway, at least 20 feet high, that would connect directly to Independence's commercial space.
"(The station) would be integrated into those buildings, so you really wouldn't be able to pick it out, except that a platform would be attached to it," Ward said.
Train tickets would be sold by vending machine. Parking might be on a gravel surface lot initially, but later in a parking garage built for the Independence retail and office buildings.
Amtrak trains might use the Independence station too, Ward said, although that remains undetermined.
The prospect of CorridorOne service between Harrisburg and Lancaster surfaced in 2002. East Hempfield was disclosed as a possible stop in 2003, but the precise location was not identified then.
Getting that long-awaited service under way is a $25 million project, Ward said.
Though millions of public dollars have been committed to date, including $2.5 million earmarked Friday by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, the venture needs about $12 million more in federal dollars.
The venture also needs preliminary and final engineering and design approval from the Federal Transit Administration. That would allow CorridorOne to begin construction and then go into operation.
CorridorOne trains would run from 5:30 a.m. to midnight. During rush hour (from 6 to 9 a.m., and from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.), trains would run every 30 minutes.
Otherwise, CorridorOne trains would run hourly. Walk-up fare for the Lancaster City to Harrisburg route is projected to be $4 one-way, said Ward.
In contrast, Amtrak trains run from 55 minutes apart to two hours and five minutes apart. Its fare is $6, according to the Amtrak Web site.
Ward described CorridorOne as a way to reduce traffic congestion at less expense than new road construction. CorridorOne will cost $690,000 a mile; a four-lane interstate highway costs $30 million a mile to build, he said.
"We just can not keep putting all our eggs in the basket of the automobile," he said. "We can't rely on building new highways. We can't build our way out of congestion."
Plans for the Independence project were unveiled in November by Charter Homes, a home builder, and B&F Partners, a commercial and apartment developer, following a week of public planning sessions.
But groundbreaking appears some time away, pending a number of municipal actions and approvals.
Independence would be essentially a new town, anchored by a traditional "Main Street." The town would have 3,200 housing units of various sorts and 450,000 square feet of commercial space, according to previous news stories.
While the farmland eyed for Independence is zoned industrial and agriculture holding, said Mark Hiester, East Hempfield's acting director of planning and development, that could change soon.
The township this fall is expected to vote on adopting a regional comprehensive plan that advocates this kind of "livable community" and probably will recommend rezoning that Independence parcel.
If the township adopts the comprehensive plan, it then would weigh whether to rezone the parcel, Hiester said.
"That would be a big decision for our board (of supervisors)," he said, citing the size of the tract and the development.
Assuming the land gets rezoned, Independence's partners next would submit land-development plans. Approval of the plans would let construction proceed.
Another issue in the township's thinking is the already strained State Road and Route 283 interchange. A $20 million upgrade is tentatively set for 2009 or 2010, Hiester said.
That road project would appear to be essential to accommodate extra traffic from Independence, the planner said.
The township could seek funds from Independence's partners to expedite the road project, Hiester said.
A Charter Homes official could not be reached for comment by press time.
CORRIDORONE RAIL SERVICE
Stops: Lancaster City, East Hempfield, Mount Joy, Elizabethtown, Middletown, Harrisburg International Airport, downtown Harrisburg
Projected start: late 2008
Projected cost: $25 million
Projected fare: $4 (one way, Lancaster-Harrisburg)
Frequency: every 30 minutes (during rush hour)