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Claymont train station improvements hinge on land, $16 M - Community News

By Adam Zewe
Community News
Posted Jun 20, 2008 @ 11:10 AM

Claymont, Del. —
A lack of land and funding could derail plans to improve the Claymont train station.

Representatives from the Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO) presented a $16 million improvement plan to the Claymont Community Coalition on June 19.

The final plan, a compromise between three alternatives that residents have reviewed and commented on since 2006, was well received.

However, WILMAPCO warned residents the project may not happen.

“We don’t even have funding for the $16 million,” said Dave Gula, a WILMAPCO senior planner.

Finding money is going to be a challenge because both the county and state governments have fallen on lean financial times, Gula told the 35 resident who attended the meeting.

Most funding for the improvements will have to come from private enterprises and the federal government, but those funding sources have their own issues, he said.

There is no space at the Myrtle-Avenue station for offices or retail, so no private companies can partner with the station and help fund construction, said Gula. And without offices or retail onsite, the federal government will be unlikely to provide funding, he said.

“The federal government wants to throw money at something that will not just be a commuter station,” said Gula.

That means the project will hinge on a 155-acre plot of land adjacent to the station owned by Claymont Steel. The land would allow offices and retail to move in next to the station, making the project more attractive for financing, said Gula. It would also allow a second entrance to the station to alleviate traffic congestion on Myrtle Avenue, he said.

WILMAPCO had been talking to the steel company about purchasing the land, conversation stalled when Claymont Steel was purchased by the Russian steelmaker Evraz Group seven months ago.

Gula is worried the property may no longer be available.

“If something does not happen on Claymont Steel’s property, it is going to be hard to have any station improvement at all,” he said.

Victor Clark, vice president and general manager of operations at Claymont Steel, did not immediately return phone calls.

Claymont has been interested in improving the station – which has not ticket booth and requires riders to walk through a dark tunnel under the station to board northbound trains -- for years, said George Lossé, president of the Claymont Community Coalition.

WILMAPCO’s plan includes an elevated concourse that crosses the tracks to eliminate the tunnel, Gula said.

It also includes elevated platforms, so riders will not have to climb up into the trains, a climate-controlled waiting room, restrooms and a ticket booth, sidewalks, landscaping improvements, parking for bicycles and 72 more parking spaces for cars, he said.

Despite the additional spaces, parking at the station will be a problem if ridership increases as much as expected, but there is no room for more spaces or a parking garage, Gula said.

To reduce traffic congestion, Gula hopes to promote the station as a place people can access without a car.

WILMAPCO is considering connecting the station to the Northern Delaware Greenway, which would give commuters access to other areas of Brandywine Hundred by foot or bicycle, he said.

Lossé and most residents at the meeting were impressed by the improvement plan and optimistic the station will be good for Claymont.

“We want people to be able to come to this community and an improved train station is a great way to do it,” said Lossé.

Lancashire resident Bill Baldwin agreed the new station will be positive for Claymont because it will fit with the community’s revitalization.

“But without funding, it could be a long time coming,” he said.

WILMAPCO hopes find funds by presenting its plan to public and private groups, Gula said. He is optimistic the persistence will eventually pay off.

Public Workshop
Claymont Train Station
Improvement Plan

Claymont Community Center
June 25, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

737-6205 Ext. 22

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