Our Odds on the 30th Street Station Area Development Plan

30th Street Station development plan, aerial view

The 30th Street Station area master plan laid out a fantastic vision of a second downtown for Philadelphia in University City. Only money stands in the way of realizing it, with the public sector as the weakest link. | Rendering by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, courtesy Amtrak

$6.5 billion.

The figure was tossed out rather casually in the course of yesterday’s formal unveiling of the two-years-in-the-making master development plan for the area surrounding 30th Street Station in University City, but it represents the largest single bet yet placed on the future of Philadelphia.

The parties involved — Amtrak, Brandywine Realty Trust, Drexel University, PennDOT, SEPTA, and a slew of elected officials and community groups — have put their chips down on a project that has many moving parts and will play out over the course of decades.

As we’ve seen plans almost as ambitious as this one go up in smoke (anyone here remember River City?), it’s only logical that we should ask what its chances for completion are. Herewith are my own odds for the plan’s key components and the overall chances that the plan will be fully realized sometime in our or our children’s lifetimes. Read more »

30th Street Station Development Plans Announced

 

A renedering of what the area around 30th Street Station would look like when all the projects envisioned in the development plan are completed. | Renderings by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, courtesy Amtrak

This morning, Amtrak, SEPTA and Drexel University officials unveiled plans for a massive transformation of the area around 30th Street Station.

The massive, multi-decade 30th Street Station District Plan would, when completed, turn the area around 30th Street Station into a second downtown for Philadelphia focused on the second-busiest station in the Amtrak system. That station, transformed into a multimodal transportation hub for the region, would serve as the linchpin of the planned development.

New office, retail and residential buildings containing 18 million square feet of total space and 40 acres of open space would be created under the plan, with most of the development privately financed. A total of $2 billion in public investment would leverage an additional $4.5 billion in private investment. These figures are on top of the $3.5 billion Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust have already pledged to see the Schuylkill Yards development, which Drexel President John Fry described as “a down payment” on the plan at this morning’s public unveiling, to completion. Read more »

A Year After the Amtrak Crash, Casey Calls for More Money for Train Safety

Bob Casey - Chris Jagodzinski - Jeff Knueppel

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey speaks at 30th Street Station Friday morning, flanked by Amtrak’s Chris Jagodzinski (right) and SEPTA GM Jeff Knueppel. | Photo by Dan McQuade

Flanked by officials from Amtrak and SEPTA, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey today called for more money for safety measures on train lines across the country. Earlier, he had been briefed on progress implementing positive train control, a measure that most likely would have prevented the derailment of Amtrak 188 a year ago.

“We need to invest more in safety,” Casey said under the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial angel statue. “So that Amtrak and any other rail system has the resources they need … the technology allows a measure of safety that we didn’t have a few years ago.” Read more »

Amtrak’s Second Sunday Accident Injures One

Left: Google Maps. Right: Shreder 9100 at en.wikipedia

Left: Google Maps. Right: Shreder 9100 at en.wikipedia

One person reportedly lost a leg Sunday night after being struck by an Amtrak train in Bensalem.

It was Amtrak’s second serious accident of the day in the Philadelphia area, following a Sunday morning derailment in Chester that killed two people. And both accidents took place nearly a year after last May’s deadly Philadelphia derailment.

“I feel safe riding a train, but things like this keep happening with Amtrak with the crashes and what’s going on here,” Ken Duncan, Bensalem, told 6ABC. “Makes me wanna take the bus.” Read more »

Amtrak Train Derails After Striking Backhoe in Chester [UPDATED]

Photo by passenger Glenn R. Hills Jr. | @glennhills

Photo by passenger Glenn R. Hills Jr. | @glennhills

This is a developing story.

UPDATE, 2:40 p.m.: U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters in New York that an Amtrak backhoe operator and a supervisor were the two people killed by an early morning train crash in Chester, according to the Associated Press.

Schumer said he spoke with Amtrak board chairman Anthony Coscia.

SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said Amtrak had notified SEPTA that they were going to have a work crew out in Chester on Sunday morning.

“It’s standard for them to let us know, because we run the Wilmington-Newark line on those same tracks,” he said.

Steve Forbes, the chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media who mounted unsuccessful bids to become the Republican presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, was on Train 89.

“I’m fine. Prayers to families of those killed and injured,” Forbes tweeted earlier today.

Forbes had been scheduled to appear on C-SPAN. He ended up calling in to the station and describing the tense moments after the crash.

“Fortunately we there was no panic,” he said. “When officials came back they were relieved, because in a couple cars there was panic…It was just waiting and waiting and waiting.”

EARLIER: Officials shared little new information during a late-morning news conference about Sunday’s Amtrak train crash in Chester, Delaware County.

Chester fire commissioner Travis Thomas confirmed that two people were killed when Train 89 struck a backhoe on the tracks about 8 a.m.

Thomas said 35 passengers — out of 341 total — were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries at area hospitals. The commissioner said the two deceased individuals were not passengers on the train, but did not confirm reports that both were Amtrak employees.

Thomas said passengers from Train 89 were being transported to Philadelphia to meet relatives and pick up their luggage.

“We have most of the situation under control,” he said.

Stephen Gardner, an Amtrak executive vice president, didn’t shed any additional light on the crash. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board are headed to the crash site to begin investigating the incident.

An NTSB spokesman said the agency will likely hold a press conference later today to share additional information.

Gardner said Amtrak service between Philadelphia and Wilmington is currently suspended, but service between New York and Harrisburg is operational.

Linton Holmes, a North Carolina resident who was a passenger on the train, described the crash to 6-ABC: “It was an explosion. We got off track and then there was like a big explosion. Then there was a fire and windows burst out. Some people were cut up, but it was just minor injuries.”

ORIGINAL: Not quite a year since an Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia’s River Wards made world headlines and focused national attention on issues of rail safety, another deadly Amtrak train derailment has occurred this morning in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Unlike the 2015 derailment, the cause of this crash seems immediately clear: According to an official statement from Amtrak, Train 89 from New York City to Savannah, Georgia, struck a backhoe on the tracks, derailing the lead engine. According to Amtrak, there were 341 passengers on the train, and an unspecified number are being treated for injuries. News outlets are reporting two confirmed fatalities, though their identities, and whether they were passengers, remain unknown.

However, there is no official word at this point about why the backhoe was on the tracks. The Federal Railroad Administration has arrived on the scene to investigate. Read more »

How Local Law Enforcement is Responding to the Brussels Attack

SEPTA Chief of Police Thomas Nestel | Mariam Dembele

SEPTA Chief of Police Thomas Nestel | Mariam Dembele

At a press conference held at SEPTA’s Market Street headquarters this morning, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel discussed plans to keep Philly commuters safe in the wake of the Brussels Attack. His main strategies include increased SEPTA Police visibility and requesting that travelers remain vigilant.

Early Tuesday, attacks on Brussels’s airport and metro left at least 30 dead and dozens injured.

“I think that the important thing to remember is that terrorism can’t stop a people,” said Nestel. “We won’t allow terrorists to interfere with our lives and at the same time we want to make sure that our riders, here in Philadelphia, feel safe and secure.”

“We will be more visible and we are asking the public to be more aware,” Nestel said. Read more »

Next Steps for 30th Street Area Revealed

A rendering of what the 30th Street Station area should look like by 2050 from the draft district plan

A rendering of what the 30th Street Station area should look like by 2050 from the draft district plan

On the heels of Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust announcing their joint plan to redevelop the area just west of 30th Street Station comes a draft plan for the larger area surrounding the station.

The 30th Street Station District Plan is the product of a coalition that includes not only Drexel and Brandywine but also Amtrak, PennDOT and SEPTA. Like Schuylkill Yards, the larger plan envisions a totally new urban core district emerging around Amtrak’s third-busiest intercity railroad station over the next 35 years. Read more »

FRA Has Plans for a Rail Tunnel Under Center City to the Airport

northeast-corridor-940x540

The Federal Railroad Administration, having come up with three plans for the future of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) came back to Philadelphia yesterday to gather public comment on each of the plans.

Most of those who commented had this message: If you really want to transform the NEC, you’d better cut out a lot of the gold-plating on that top-drawer plan.

The FRA’s three plans, and their price tags, are: Read more »

Amtrak Announces Pope Plan: Beefed-Up Service, Reservations Required

Amtrak | Shutterstock. Pope Francis | giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Amtrak | Shutterstock. Pope Francis | giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Amtrak is beefing up its service into Philadelphia for the pope’s visit, the agency said Friday, but there will also be temporary restrictions on travel, and the ripple effect is expected to be felt throughout the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington D.C..

Also, they’re closing the bathrooms at 30th Street Station that weekend. (Don’t worry: There’ll be some portable facilities positioned outside.)

According to Amtrak: Read more »

Report: SEPTA on Track With Safety Improvements

Septa regional rail train

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

By year’s end, SEPTA may well be running one of the safest passenger rail systems in the United States.

That’s because the transit agency is among the few on track to meet a federal mandate to install “positive train control” technology throughout its Regional Rail system by the federal deadline of Jan. 1. A new report from the Federal Railroad Administration shows SEPTA is just one of 11 railroads — out of 41 nationwide — expected to meet the deadline.

“It may be a photo finish,” SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams told PlanPhilly, which first reported on the FRA report.

Almost half of SEPTA’s 290 locomotives are equipped with the new safety technology. The agency has been taking cars out of service — making trains more crowded — in order to meet the deadline.
Read more »

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