Navy Yard Subway Extension Update: Funding for New Feasibility Study Secured

The Navy Yard subway extension takes one more step toward groundbreaking, or so everyone assembled at this morning’s news conference hopes.

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From left: Sen. Pat Toomey, John Dougherty, Sen. Bob Casey. Photos | Sandy Smith

“I’ll be back only when I can ride a train from City Hall here,” U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-1st District) told the assembled dignitaries and construction workers at this morning’s news conference announcing that Federal funding had been secured for a new feasibility study for the planned Broad Street Subway extension to the Navy Yard.

The Congressman will have to wait a while longer for that train, for despite the tone sounded by the elected officials who spoke at the conference, there are still some more hurdles to clear before shovels can be stuck in the ground.

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Photo | Sandy Smith

But Brady wasn’t the only one eager to catch a train to the Navy Yard. IBEW Local 98 President John Dougherty, who several of the assembled pols thanked for the role he played in getting the study off the ground, was equally anxious to get to work, as were the Local 98 members in the audience, some of whom had placards thanking Brady and urging SEPTA to “Build It Now!”

Before SEPTA can build it, however, it must obtain funding for the project, which is estimated to cost anywhere from $300 million to $500 million. And it was with an eye toward making an ironclad case for Federal New Starts funding, which will be needed for the project to proceed, that the assembled dignitaries urged the study forward.

William Hankowsky, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Liberty Property Trust, said his firm stands ready to build even more than it already has at the Navy Yard sooner once the subway is in place. With the first speculative office building LPT is building at the Navy Yard as a backdrop, Hankowsky said that LPT is committed to adding another 2 million square feet of space to the 1.6 million it already has completed or under construction, and that the added capacity of a Broad Street Subway extension could turn all this into “one of the most exciting urban centers on the East Coast.”

Brady suggested the capacity was needed now in his later remarks: “Anyone who doesn’t think we need the extension should stick around until 4 or 4:30 and see how long it takes to get out of here,” he said.

Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation President John Grady touted the Navy Yard as a success story, and the numbers back him up: Where 5,000 Navy personnel were still employed when the yard all but shut down in 1995, 11,000 people, including 2,500 Navy personnel, now work for 145 companies housed at the Navy Yard. Two-thirds of those companies, he said, are new or new to the city.

Both Grady and SEPTA deputy general manager Rich Burnfield had thanks aplenty for the elected officials present, including State Senator John Rafferty, U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, and U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. Burnfield expressed particular gratitude to the state legislators for passing Act 89, which provides stable funding for mass transit as well as transportation projects statewide. Burnfield noted that Act 89 funds are not only going to rebuild aging infrastructure but also to allow SEPTA to plan for the future, including this study of the Navy Yard extension.

“SEPTA is working with PennDOT and our consultant partners to consider the best options to improve transportation to the Navy Yard. This work is well under way and will consider the best mass transit option for the Navy Yard,” Burnfield said.

SEPTA manager of long-range planning, Elizabeth Smith, said afterward that an additional feasibility study is needed because conditions at the Navy Yard had changed significantly since the last one was completed in 2008. If the full parking lots surrounding the Central Green, where the press conference took place, are any indication, Brady’s contention that the subway extension is needed sooner is valid, and the feasibility study should bear that out. Nonetheless, SEPTA must still weigh various alternatives for providing service before applying for federal funds for any particular project. This study, Smith said, will do some of that weighing.

SEPTA should have a better idea of how to proceed with Navy Yard transit service by the end of 2016, Smith said. It was clear from today’s news conference what local politicians, including Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, and labor leaders would like to see. Like Brady, Kenney would welcome a subway extension: He’s said he uses public transit all the time and vowed to continue to ride the subway as mayor.

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