Gabriela Martínez is a Report for America corps member covering central Pennsylvania's growing Latino community.
Previously, she worked as an associate producer at Kentucky Educational Television (KET) producing stories on the commonwealth’s diverse regions and contributing to state legislature coverage. She also worked as a news assistant at the PBS NewsHour, interned at WAMU 88.5, and was a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Russia. Gabriela holds a master’s degree in multiplatform journalism from the University of Maryland.
Gabriela was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She is fluent in Spanish, English and Russian.
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A member of the station staff pushes a portable wheelchair lift along the platform at an Amtrak station in DeLand, Fla. The company says its policies for having to adjust or remove seats has changed.
The Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority – tasked with overseeing efforts to restore passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia – has applied for federal funding for a wide-ranging study of the project .
The authority, appointed in May 2022 by Berks, Chester and Montgomery commissioners, is asking for $500,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification and Development Program.
It wants to use the money for a study on the scope of the project and create a plan that forecasts potential revenue and ridership. If the application is approved, it would also be able to begin negotiations with Amtrak and Norfolk Southern about sharing the same tracks they are using.
“There’s a confluence of a couple of different things all happening at once,” said Tom Frawley, Interim Executive Director of the authority. “The fact that there’s a federal program with funding that’s available, and, frankly, the work of the local counties and communities to get to this point, taking the initiative to organize the authority, and to do the work necessary to assemble a credible and competitive application.”
Frawley says a decision from the federal agency is likely to happen in the summer.
State lawmakers have secured state grants from a licensed gaming revenue fund for the project. Last week, the state approved a $250,000 grant for a feasibility study. The Greater Reading Chamber Alliance was awarded $142,346 for its Franklin Street Transit-Oriented Development Strategic Plan, which is an effort to redevelop residential and commercial properties near the area where the train station would be.
State Sen. Judy Schwank from Berks County, is one of the lawmakers who has been lobbying for funding a feasibility study of the project.
Reading Company began offering passenger rail services in 1924. After it went bankrupt and sold all its assets in the 1970s, that service ended in 1981.
“We’ve heard from individuals, as well as businesses that want the opportunity to seek employees all along the line, that this would give them a convenient way to commute,” Schwank said. “There’s a lot of grumbling about Route 422 and the traffic on that road and that we desperately need an alternative that moves more people more efficiently.”
Cayriz Mueses, a Reading organizer for Make the Road PA, said a Reading-Philadelphia passenger train is “necessary.” She noted many people in the immigrant community often have to go to Philadelphia to access consular services. They often cannot find a ride and opt for expensive Uber rides.