5 SEPTA Projects You Can Expect Progress on This Year

A shiny new City Hall concourse! Better real-time tracking on your smartphone! SEPTA Key — finally? And more.

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Remember the Crum Creek Viaduct on the Media/Elwyn Regional Rail Line, the poster child for SEPTA’s horrible physical condition? Its replacement is well on its way to completion now, and several other century-old bridges on that line are getting rebuilt so they can last another century or so. That was one of the highlights in the annual capital budget presentation SEPTA made at an open house at SEPTA headquarters yesterday.

The agency is spending $534.5 million on capital projects in the current fiscal year and plans to nudge that figure up a bit in the coming fiscal year, to $539.2 million. As was the case this year, the state will provide the largest portion of the budget: $326.8 million, or about 61 percent.

Much of the spending will go toward whittling down SEPTA’s $5 billion backlog of state-of-good-repair projects like repairing or replacing those bridges on the Media/Elwyn line. But there are some other improvements and changes in the works as well. Here are five projects to keep your eye on in the coming year:

poster showing concourse work

The concourses beneath City Hall, Market Street and South Broad Street will look more like the Dilworth Park passageways when a modernization program is complete. Photo: Sandy Smith

City Hall Concourse Modernization

Think those passageways under Dilworth Park are snazzy? Eventually, all of the underground concourses beneath Market and Broad streets will look like them. The first phase of this project gets under way this year, transforming the southeast quarter of the concourse that encircles City Hall with changing electronic display boards and brighter recessed lighting. Future phases will cover the rest of the City Hall concourse, the Market Street concourses and, finally, the South Broad Street concourse.

Frazer Yard Upgrade

The Frazer yard on SEPTA’s Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail line will be expanded and renovated starting this spring in order to accommodate new electric locomotives and bi-level passenger cars the agency expects to receive starting in 2018.

Accessibility Improvements for the Mobility-Impaired

Two of the four remaining Market-Frankford Line stations that are not fully accessible are being refitted starting this year. Work began in January on a project that will install elevators at Arrott Transportation Center station, and work began late last fall on elevators and new entrance stairwells at 40th Street station.

Better Real-Time Vehicle Location Information

SEPTA will be upgrading its real-time vehicle tracking systems this year so that vehicle location information for buses and trolleys will refresh every 30 seconds instead of every three minutes as it does now. Riders won’t be able to see this information unless they use one of several smartphone apps that grab data from SEPTA’s system, but a few years down the road, riders will be able to view real-time status information on displays in SEPTA rail stations. (Bus stops are another matter: with more than 5,000 of them, it’s not likely that all of them will get displays. Which ones might hasn’t even come up for discussion yet.)

SEPTA Key — at Last

While this has moved out of the realm of capital projects, it’s nonetheless a major undertaking of interest to many, and it was included at the presentation. Official word remains that the first portion of the system will go live this spring.

Footnote: One other project that’s now well under way is also something that riders won’t see but will appreciate, as it will reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic failure that would knock out a good chunk of SEPTA’s service. Reconstruction of the power substations at Wayne Junction, Morton and Jenkintown, three key components of the Regional Rail power supply system that had not been upgraded since they were built in the 1930s, began last year and is nearly complete.

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