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Editor's Voice: Middletown deserves and needs a new station

Posted 9/17/13

You’ve heard this before: A new train station will be built along West Main Street in Middletown. The project has been talked about for a couple years, announced by PennDOT in 2010. It was to be completed by the end of 2013 – but the proposed …

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Editor's Voice: Middletown deserves and needs a new station

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PennDOT assured local officials last week that it indeed will be built – that delays in acquiring the land and railroad tracks necessary for the project are moving forward.  In fact, PennDOT sees the project as a boon to the community, and may even build an extension to Emaus Street itself to connect the station to Middletown’s downtown business district to lure travelers there. “There’s so many dynamics, so many great benefits, in my mind,’’ said Jennie Granger, an executive assistant at PennDOT.

Granger said she’s “pretty optimistic’’ that construction will begin in 2015. PennDOT has gone to court to take the site, currently owned by developer Jim Nardo, a member of Middletown Borough’s Industrial and Commercial Development Authority – and Nardo did not challenge it within a 30-day deadline.

The state also is eyeing borough-owned property where Middletown’s highway department was located, on the opposite side of the railroad tracks, for the project. The building currently is used only for storage, and PennDOT has initiated talks for the purchase of the property, though no price has been set, said Chris Courogen, borough secretary and director of communications.

Current plans also include a pedestrian bridge over West Main Street to get students at nearby Penn State Harrisburg safely across the busy street to the station – college students are anticipated to be the biggest customers of the Amtrak trains that will stop there. Mayor Robert Reid and Penn State Harrisburg Chancellor Mukund Kulkarni have lobbied for the bridge to be built first, a request that makes sense.

The current station on Mill Street is “essentially a bus shelter’’ and is on a curve, not recommended for future high-speed rail, said Granger. And Middletown is already a busy stop – one of the busiest along the Harrisburg-to-Philadelphia corridor – so the borough deserves an “improved station,’’ she said.

Indeed, a new train station would be quite an asset to Middletown. It’s a worthwhile project. Let’s hope it moves forward as quickly as possible.

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