A comprehensive strategy currently being hashed out will, in time, reshape access to the extreme northeast corner of Delaware.
"Claymont's location is its greatest strength," offered Heather Dunigan, planner for the Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO). "And so this is really capitalizing on the fact that--(with) I-95, (Interstate) 495, rail service, and Route 13, which does have roadway capacity--we're taking full advantage (of the region)."
The objectives for the North Claymont Area Master Plan were ranked using public input at a February 3, 2016, meeting and--near the top--residents expressed that improving transportation connections was a goal worth exploring.
"Improving local and regional multi-modal transportation connections," Dunigan explained, "includes possibly relocating the train station to a more convenient location that would be ADA (American Disabilities Act) accessible, and also having pedestrian, and bicycle, and better roadway connections."
The current location for the Amtrak Northeast Corridor--which uses the Claymont stop for SEPTA regional rail service--is a favorite of few passengers, according to Dunigan.
"To get there, it's about a quarter mile from the furthest parking space to the platform," she explained. "And then you might have to cross all the way under the tracks in a kind of a dark and scary tunnel that nobody likes. There is a handicap accessible lift there but, honestly, it doesn't even work all the time. And then to climb on the the train, because the track is on a curve, the train tilts in such a way that even an able bodied person has trouble climbing on that train."
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Even the rail carrier has indicated it wants the line repositioned.
"The bend of the track is something that Amtrak would like to get rid of--long term," Dunigan revealed. "They plan to eventually straighten that track which means they would force the station to move even if we weren't looking at it anyway."
The search for a new train station was made far easier when the former Claymont Steel location became an option.
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"The current owner of that (site) is actually offering the state about 12 acres," Dunigan shared. "When you're being offered land, that immediately jumps to the top of the list for locations. It's a unique opportunity because where the current station is, there's really no chance to build transit oriented development around it, whereas the Claymont Steel site is 425 acres and there's a lot of opportunity to have land use coordinated with the transportation."
So--as the Philadelphia Pike location north of the Interstate 495 interchange clears all remnants of the former steel facility, in what's considered as Brownfield land in the planning industry--officials ready the layout for what will go there next.
"The state is applying for grant funds for construction and the design of the station is now underway."
Another area nearby is also being studied for transit transportation.
"Part of our area is Tri-State Mall, (which) is one of the busiest bus stops in the entire state of Delaware," Dunigan pointed out. "And it's not people who are visiting the mall, though, it's just people who are using it as a transfer point between Septa routes and DART routes."
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Unlike the Claymont train station, however, the plans for the 41 acres where the mall sits are still in development.
"We're looking at different options for that property. Like the Claymont Steel site, it's a huge property so it's (still) a question for the study to analyze whether it should remain a retail center, or mixed use, or institutional."