New $90M+ Claymont rail station brings potential
CLAYMONT – Hundreds of people turned out Monday morning to celebrate the culmination of a project that many thought might never be completed: a new Claymont Transit Station.
Replacing a smaller, aging rail station just to the south, the new station will serve as a major regional rail artery from Wilmington’s suburbs into the greater Philadelphia market via SEPTA train service. It also will be a hub for DART bus service across the First State.
The more than $90 million project was made possible through more than $51 million in Federal Transit Administration funding, including a $10 million in a competitive U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant. The state contributed more than $38 million toward the project.
Brett Saddler, the executive director of the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp., a nonprofit that was formed to help plan and guide the revitalization of the unincorporated northern Delaware community that was home to both President Joe Biden and Gov. John Carney, said he was a bit in awe of the finished product.
“After 14 years of being asked by Claymont residents, ‘When are we getting that new train station you promised?’ … I can finally say today,” he said to applause from many of the locals who joined the ceremony.
SEPTA and DART service will begin at the new Harris B. McDowell III Transportation Center on Monday, Dec. 4, replacing the previous station on Myrtle Avenue that will be decommissioned and hoped to turn into a public trailhead. The new facility features a number of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements, including elevators over the tracks and level platforms to trains.
The new facility also includes a 464-space parking garage that offers covered parking to Claymont commuters for the first time, and another 343 spaces on an outdoor lot, which in total increases available parking by about 60%.
While about 1,200 people use the Claymont station on SEPTA’s Wilmington-Newark line, Saddler believes those numbers will grow in coming years. That’s due in part to First State Crossing, a major redevelopment of the former Evraz steel mill adjacent to the train station, that is welcoming major employment centers like an Agile Cold Storage warehouse and a First Industrial Realty Trust facility.
Stephen Collins, executive vice president of St. Louis-based Commercial Development Company (CDC), which is investing millions into First State Crossing, said he considered it an “anchor” of the Claymont community and his company’s mixed-use project.
“Commuters will be able to come to work here and shop here, and we think it’d be a great asset for the community and the project,” he told Delaware Business Times, adding that CDC believes the opening of the station will prompt new interest from investors to look at the area.
CDC plans to build upward of 1,200 residential homes northeast of the train station, as well as additional retail and potentially a small number of offices.
“Obviously the commuter station will be a great asset to those people who want to live in Claymont, Delaware, where the taxes are much lower than they are in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and they can go up to the Hospital District or downtown Philadelphia to work,” Collins added.
The opening of the facility comes just a few weeks after President Biden announced $16 billion in new funding for Amtrak that would fix issues along its heavily traveled Northeast Corridor, which runs through Delaware. In a letter, the president, who famously rode Amtrak to Washington every week for more than three decades, congratulated state leaders in completing the new Claymont station.
“I know how much it matters to be able to get to work on time. I know how much it matters to get home and see your family after a long day. I know how frustrating it feels to be delayed at the station when something goes wrong. As president, I have worked relentlessly to make our transportation infrastructure faster, safer and more reliable for all Americans. And the Harris B. McDowell III Transportation Center sets the standard for what we should expect from new infrastructure projects,” he wrote. “[It] will better connect our communities, strengthen our economy and help chart the course of Claymont’s future.”
The president also congratulated McDowell, who was the longest-serving member of the General Assembly when he retired in 2021 with 45 years of service. The lifelong Claymont resident was honored with the naming of the transit station, in part because he was the godfather of climate change legislation in the state and advocated for a strong public transit system.
Many turned out Monday to celebrate his contributions and the naming of the new station.
“He has the ability to see the world not just as it is, but as it should, as it could be. When he sees injustice, he sees seeks to right it. When he sees environmental degradation, he seeks to advance justice. When he sees poverty, he seeks to expand opportunity. And today, this facility is named after a man who didn’t just see a different world, but help to deliver it,” said State Sen. Sarah McBride, who succeeded McDowell in representing the First Senate District.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with full cost figures for the project, moving it to more than $90 million.