Thanks to New Funding, City Hall Station Renovation Is Back on Track [UPDATED]

Photo: Liz Spikol

Photo: Liz Spikol

All SEPTA riders know that City Hall/15th Street Station is, at best, unappetizing. According to Sandy Smith, it is the only station on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines that has gone untouched for at least 30 years. Some SEPTA riders may also know that for a while now, the agency has been promising to redo the whole thing.

Well, according to SEPTA, that’ll actually start to happen in the coming years thanks to the November passage of Act 89, the state’s transportation funding bill. Last week SEPTA quietly released its proposed capital budget and program for the coming years, and it includes $146 million between 2015 and 2026 for the project, which had previously been deferred due to lack of funding. The promised improvements: elevators throughout, more open space on the Broad Street Line platforms, new ventilation in re-opened air shafts, new architectural finishes and signage, new fare lines, platforms raised to car door height, redone inter-station corridors, and public art.

In a December presentation of SEPTA’s general capital plans, Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel said the renovations will be a “signature project” for SEPTA. Design work will begin this year and last until 2017. Construction is scheduled to run from 2015 to 2020.

According to Smith, the project is made especially difficult by the building that stands above the station, which is one of the largest masonry buildings in the world. The thick walls between the local and express platforms on the Broad Street Line support the southwest corner of City Hall, and so are not easily modified to make room for elevators or expanded platforms. Hopefully $150 million is enough to solve that one.

Some work is already underway as a part of the Center City District’s Dilworth Plaza project. The plaza, which is currently scheduled to open at the end of this summer, will feature dramatic new glass stairway head houses to the station, as well as three new elevators.

The proposed capital plan also details two other related, potentially interesting projects: concourse improvements and new real-time arrival information systems. A much-needed $53.5 million will be spent on improvements to the whole Center City concourse network, of which City Hall Station is just a small part. (The vast area under South Broad Street is a very big and empty and desolate part. What is all that space even meant for?)

And $26.5 million will be spent on installing, or beginning to install, “real-time passenger information systems at railroad and transit stations.” Does this mean those neat real-time displays will come to subway stations? A SEPTA spokesman wasn’t sure, and promised to get back to us soon with an answer. We’ll update once we find out.

This plan isn’t quite final—there’s actually a public hearing about it coming up this month—but none of these projects seem likely to change.

For more detailed information about the plan, go here.

Update 8/8/14: A SEPTA spokesman said the agency is indeed planning to install real-time arrival information systems at all subway, el, and trolley stations in the city.