Philadelphia Art Commission Grants Final Approval To Reading Viaduct Spur

The Reading Viaduct Spur took another step toward reality Wednesday morning when the Philadelphia Art Commission gave the project the blessing of final approval.

The Spur is a quarter-mile arm of the viaduct that stretches between Broad Street and Callowhill Street.

Wednesday’s presentation described in detail how Phase 1 would incorporate plant material and path surface materials (think chip seal paving) into the project. It also addressed how structural elements (think bridges) would be rehabilitated; how recreational features (benches, swings, lighting) would be strategically placed on the site; how toxins (mostly railroad ballast, very little PCB presence) would be remediated; and how the entire spur would be maintained.

The Center City District is still raising money to complete the planned improvements on the first phase of the project. The group has raised about 65 percent of the $9 million it needs for the “SEPTA spur” and is pursuing a $3.5 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), according to John Struble, of Friends of the Rail Park. After the improvements are completed, the city would take over ownership of the park.


SEPTA, Amtrak Trains Hit By Projectiles Minutes Before Fatal Crash

Just before Tuesday’s deadly Amtrak derailment, both a SEPTA commuter train and another Amtrak train in the same corridor were hit by projectiles, one which crashed through the engineer’s window.

An Amtrak spokesman could not be reached regarding Amtrak Acela Train 2173, which passengers said was struck at about 9:05 p.m. A SEPTA train was struck by a projectile at about 9:10 p.m., according to a SEPTA spokeswoman, who said there is no indication the incident is connected to the derailment, which happened at about 9:30 p.m.

Mayor Nutter, at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, reiterated that the incident with the SEPTA train had “nothing to do” with the derailment.

Amtrak’s Acela 2173 was traveling southbound when it was hit on the left side between 9:05 and 9:10 p.m., about five minutes before it entered 30th Street Station, according to 29-year-old passenger Madison Calvert.


Amtrak Derailment Death Toll Rises In Phildelphia

The death toll in the derailment of an Amtrak train in Port Richmond rose to seven Wednesday and could go higher as a team of federal rail experts begins an investigation to determine what caused the engine and all seven passenger cars to jump the tracks at a curve.

People close to the investigation in the meantime tell the Inquirer the train apparently was traveling well above the speed limit when it entered the sharp curve at Frankford Junction Tuesday night.

Officials said Wednesday more than 200 people were injured in the crash and taken to city hospitals and at least eight of them remained in critical condition.

The seventh fatality was found in the wreckage late Wednesday morning. No other details were immediately available.


Philadelphia Moving Forward On Reading Viaduct Rail Park

The city is moving to purchase a portion of the Reading Viaduct in anticipation of the development of an elevated park there.

Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a bill last week that would authorize the purchase of the portion of the viaduct curving from 13th Street southeast to Callowhill between 11th and 12th. The 0.8-acre property is currently owned by SEPTA. It rises from ground-level up to the elevated portion of the viaduct to the east, a former rail line that’s been out of use for 30 years.


Money-Saving Consultants Have Cost SEPTA $2.8 Million, Invoices Show

Looking for ways to save money, SEPTA has paid about $2.8 million to a Boston-based consulting firm, including payments of more than $500 an hour to some specialists.

In the process, FTI Consulting Inc. has used 24 of its staffers, some of whom have collected more from SEPTA than the transit agency’s highest-paid official, general manager Joseph Casey, who makes $273,000 a year.

The meter is still running, with additional payments expected to continue through the end of the year.

SEPTA hired FTI in February 2013 through a no-bid contract to help the transit agency reduce legal costs arising from injury claims.


Montco Invites Public To Come Hear About The Exciting Future Of Transit In Montgomery County

Norristown, PA – Montgomery County, in partnership with SEPTA, Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association, The Partnership TMA, and TransNet, is presenting “Your Transit Dollars at Work” on Thursday, April 16, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the meeting room at the Whitemarsh Township building, 616 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill.

The event will focus on the exciting future of transit in Montgomery County. Representatives from the Montgomery County Planning Commission, SEPTA, and local transportation management associations will be on hand to present information, answer questions, and listen to comments.

Participants will have an opportunity to learn about SEPTA’s draft capital plan with station improvements and system upgrades, current commuting alternatives, and Montco’s plan for the future as highlighted in Montco 2040: A Shared Vision, Montgomery County’s nationally awarded new comprehensive plan.

The public is invited to participate and see the impressive vision plan for transit in Montgomery County and to discover what new transit funding is doing for county citizens. Additional information and online registration are available at Montgomery County’s new comprehensive plan is available at Please contact Crystal Gilchrist at 610-278-3734 or via email at with any questions.

Public Meetings Set To Air SEPTA Rail Extension Of Norristown High-Speed Line To Upper Merion

Location of Upper Merion Township in Montgomer...

Location of Upper Merion Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPPER MERION TOWNSHIP, PA – Residents in both Upper Merion and Norristown will be presented this week with four alternative routes to extend the Norristown high-speed rail line into Upper Merion in a proposed, $500 million, SEPTA rail project.

Both meetings will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday. The Upper Merion meeting on Monday will be held at the Radisson Hotel at Valley Forge, 1160 First Ave. and the Norristown meeting on Wednesday will be held at Norristown municipal hall, 235 E. Airy St.

Byron Comati, director of strategic planning and analysis for SEPTA, will present the four alternative routes winnowed down from 16 route variations. He will be joined by project manager and engineer Elizabeth Smith, an AECOM consulting engineer and Burt Cossaboon, a vice president of McCormick Taylor.

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Amid Ridership Surge, SEPTA Trains Are Packed

English: personal photo

English: personal photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SEPTA is shuffling equipment and workers to try to deal with chronic crowding problems on Regional Rail trains, as ridership rises and old cars and locomotives break down more frequently.

Even the 120 new Silverliner V cars that have arrived since 2010 to replace 73 old cars have not solved the overcrowding issue.

About 15 percent of SEPTA’s rail cars are out of service on any given day, while passenger counts are up 4 percent from last year and 50 percent from 15 years ago.

“The trains are so full that it’s even hard to find room to stand,” said Katrina Claghorn, a dietitian who commutes daily from Wayne to 30th Street Station. “It started getting bad over the summer, and now the trains are packed when they pull into 30th Street Station on the Paoli line.”


SEPTA Regional Rail Strike Begins; Corbett To Seek Federal Help

SEPTA logo with text

SEPTA logo with text (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SEPTA railroad engineers and electrical workers went on strike early Saturday, halting commuter rail service in the Philadelphia region, after last-ditch efforts by federal mediators failed to break an impasse in the long-running labor dispute.

The strike shut down 13 Regional Rail lines that provide 60,000 passengers with 126,000 rides on a typical weekday. That promised to snarl already clogged highways with additional cars and to hamper commuters and their employers throughout the region.

Service on SEPTA’s buses, subways, trolleys and the Norristown High-Speed Line – which carry about 85 percent of SEPTA’s riders – were not affected.

Gov. Corbett was prepared to ask President Obama to quickly appoint a presidential emergency board to mediate the rail labor dispute. Under federal railroad law, the creation of such a board would compel the workers to return to the job for 240 days.


SEPTA Aims For Happier Riders, Unveils 5-Year Plan

SEPTA logo

SEPTA logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With increased state funding and stable ridership, SEPTA officials are unveiling a five-year plan to attract more riders, repair crumbling infrastructure, and improve customer satisfaction.

Having emerged from last year’s doomsday scenarios into a hopeful era of what SEPTA planners call “innovation, integration and renewal,” the officials on Tuesday outlined a blueprint for the future that will be presented to the agency’s board for approval in July.

Meeting with transit users and supporters at SEPTA’s Center City headquarters, Byron Comati, director of strategic planning, said legislative approval late last year of a $2.3 billion boost in statewide transportation funding allows SEPTA to plan more boldly.

By 2018, the additional state funding will mean a boost of about $400 million annually for SEPTA to repair bridges, buy new vehicles and upgrade stations and equipment.


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Widespread Flooding Submerges Cars, Causes Major Commute Problems

The logo of the United States National Weather...

The logo of the United States National Weather Service. The source page states that is not an “official” version but it looks very close to the version used on NWS’s website. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rain that pounded the Philadelphia region last night and into this morning left widespread flooding that stranded motorists and caused the shutdown of major routes from the western suburbs to South Jersey.

The National Weather Service said around 5 inches fell in most parts of the area, with some places seeing a bit more, such as the 6.56 inches recorded in Spring City, Chester County.

A weather service flood warning is in effect until 12:45 p.m. Authorities are warning that the flood situation is dangerous in many areas as motorists continued to underestimate the severity. Rescue crews were busy throughout the night rescuing stranded drivers.

Even though the flooding had started to recede, crews were still busy rescuing people this morning.


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Elevated Park On Rail Viaduct Finally Firming Up In Philly

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neighborhood volunteers first began cultivating the idea of converting the ruins of the Reading Viaduct into Philadelphia’s own elevated park more than a decade ago.

After years of organizing, raising money, and drafting proposals, their efforts – and those of the politicians and professional planners who joined the cause – finally appear ready to bear fruit. Without fanfare, the city and the state have included millions of dollars in their latest budgets toward the first phase of the project: transforming the quarter-mile railroad “spur” that curves through the city’s burgeoning Loft District and dead-ends onto North Broad Street.

Turning that section into a park with stunning Center City views is just a small part of the overall vision to “green” abandoned railroad infrastructure, transforming foreboding eyesores into amenities.

A larger, 4/5-mile section of the viaduct stretches with fortresslike walls from Fairmount Avenue to Vine Street. Across Broad, the old railroad line drops below street level, running through a subterranean channel from the former Inquirer and Daily News building to Fairmount Park at Girard Avenue.


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Mass Transit Ridership In 2013 Highest In 57 Years

Ridership on buses, trains and subways in 2013 was the highest in 57 years, the American Public Transportation Association said Monday.

The growth in transit ridership continued a 20-year trend attributed to higher gasoline prices, a shift by young adults away from automobiles, increased use of mobile technology, and the increasing allure of urban areas.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities,” said APTA president Michael Melaniphy.

In 2013, riders made 10.7 billion trips on U.S. public transit systems, up 1.1 percent from 2012. That was the most since 1956.


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Zoning Change Approved, Finally, For Franklin Mint Site

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP, PA –  A decade after the Franklin Mint closed, its round museum building still sits vacant along busy Baltimore Pike in Delaware County.

Development of the prominent property has been plagued by opposition from residents, a slow economy, and – most recently – a legal battle among the developers.

But the plan took a step forward this week when a revised zoning ordinance won approval from the Middletown Township Council. The site, with more than 170 acres, could now have 350 townhouses, offices, retail space, and a hotel.

Its completion could take years. By that time, the site could become just one piece in a transformation of the heavily traveled Route 1 through Middletown.


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PECO: Montgomery County Ice Storm Second Worst For Power Outages Since Hurricane Sandy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN, PA — A PECO spokesperson said they are looking into a multiple day restoration process for 67 percent of customers without power in Montgomery County.

At 1 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, 181,902 of the 302,600 PECO customers in Montgomery County are without power—not all Montgomery County residents are PECO customers— and crews are in the area trying to turn the lights back on.

“We’re looking at the second worst storm for power outages since Hurricane Sandy,” PECO Spokesperson Cathy Engel Mendez said on Wednesday.

Mendez said the most common cause of the outages have to do with tree limbs coming down on power lines.

Read more:

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Double-Decker Train Cars For SEPTA?

SEPTA logo with text

SEPTA logo with text (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Things are looking up for regional rail.

In an attempt to increase passenger capacity, SEPTA is in the early stages of considering bi-level coaches. With an upstairs and a downstairs, these coaches could transport anywhere from 120 to 170 passengers. Most important to SEPTA, they would provide an efficient remedy to booming regional rail ridership. Silverliner Vs can seat 109 passengers.

Last year alone, SEPTA passengers took 36 million regional rail trips – a record high on the system that has seen 50 percent regional rail ridership growth in the last 15 years. Now, aided by Act 89 funding, SEPTA is looking to increase its capacity and better serve those customers. One way the authority plans to do so is to build up.

“The real elegant solution to dealing with capacity issues, the most efficient one is to utilize the infrastructure you have but go up in the air with the cars so you can increase seating,” said Jeff Knueppel, deputy general manager.


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King Of Prussia Rail Project Public Meeting / Open House – January 30th!

SEPTA logo

SEPTA logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SEPTA has scheduled a Public Meeting/Open House for the King of Prussia Rail Project. The King of Prussia Rail Project will evaluate various alternative alignments to make the connection to the NHSL and destinations in King of Prussia.

Date: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Time: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Open House) | 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Presentations)
Location: Radisson Hotel at Valley Forge – South Ballroom 1160 First Avenue, King of Prussia, PA 19406

Meeting attendees should use the hotel entrance to reach the South Ballroom.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) welcomes your interest and participation in the King of Prussia Rail Project. Early in fall 2012, SEPTA initiated this study to evaluate an extension of the Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) to the King of Prussia area. The NHSL currently provides service between the 69th Street Transportation Center and Norristown Transportation Center, serving the Main Line area in Delaware and Montgomery Counties, and connecting to Center City Philadelphia. While the transit system is expansive, a rail connection to the King of Prussia area is missing.

The project will evaluate various alignments to provide increased transit service to the King of Prussia area. The project need stems from deficiencies in area transit services that result in long travel times, delays due to roadway congestion, and transfers between services. In addition, there are many destinations in the King of Prussia/Valley Forge area that are underserved or currently not served by public transit.

SEPTA invites you to participate in the project development process and provide input.


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Storm Causes Big Problems; 1 Dead In Crash

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Ph...

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Photograph, not copyrighted Ed Yakovich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The large storm that blew through overnight – churning up high winds and causing local flooding – is causing major traffic problems early on throughout the Philadelphia regions on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

A string of crashes, one deadly, were reported through the night and into the early morning. Airports have also begun reporting delays and canceling flights due to the weather.

One person was killed in a crash shortly before 5 a.m. on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) at West Girard Ave., severely impacting traffic. It was not clear if weather was the main factor, but flooding was reported on the roadway prior to the crash.

Indeed, the expressway was closed eastbound and westbound at Montgomery Drive because of flooding. Police were being asked to prevent motorists from getting on at the nearby entrance ramps.


Casey Calls For Subway Extension To Navy Yard

Riders board Philadelphia's Broad Street Subwa...

Riders board Philadelphia’s Broad Street Subway on the Southbound platform of City Hall Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WHAT DO YOU get for the corporate hot spot that seems like it has everything?

How ’bout some underground transit?

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey called yesterday for extending SEPTA’s Broad Street subway line into the Navy Yard, given the area’s dramatic rebirth as a sprawling office park that’s home to about 10,000 workers.

Casey sent a letter to Brigid Hynes-Cherin, the Federal Transportation Agency’s (FTA) regional administrator, urging her to discuss the potential project with SEPTA, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades.


Officials: Transportation Will Suffer With Bill’s Defeat

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Commuter rail service is likely to be cut next year, and Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges will continue to deteriorate, transportation officials said Tuesday, following the narrow legislative defeat of a major transportation funding increase.

Most lawmakers from southeastern Pennsylvania supported the funding measure, but eight area Democrats and five Republicans voted against it. And a key supporter, Rep. Louise Bishop (D., Phila.), was out sick, the only legislator not voting on the measure, which was defeated 103-98 Monday night.

Supporters of the bill, which would have increased gas taxes and motorists’ fees to provide about $2.4 billion in additional funding, said negotiations were continuing Tuesday to try to revive the bill, which was one of Gov. Corbett’s key legislative priorities.

Republican opponents cited the increased taxes and fees as a prime reason for their “no” votes, while Democratic opponents said they objected to a provision that would have increased the prevailing-wage exemption on government construction projects, which some labor unions opposed.