Philadelphia’s SEPTA approved measures that will allow for significant advances to two major initiatives of SEPTA Forward, the authority’s Strategic Plan – King of Prussia Rail (KOP Rail) and Trolley Modernization.
KOP Rail will extend the existing Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) four miles into King of Prussia, providing a “one-seat” ride from any station along the NHSL, including 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby and Norristown Transportation Center.
As part of the Project Development Phase, the board voted to initiate the real estate process related to necessary permanent and temporary acquisitions of approximately 70 parcels in and around the proposed rail alignment. These acquisitions will facilitate the construction, staging, and establishment of the KOP Rail extension.
The board’s decision authorizes SEPTA to begin appraising the properties, determining fair market value, making offers, and reaching an agreement with owners. SEPTA will attempt to acquire all necessary property interests through good faith negotiations.
The board also approved the acquisition of a 13-acre property in southwest Philadelphia for SEPTA’s Trolley Modernization Program, which will transform the nation’s largest trolley network into an accessible, fast, and easy-to-use system.
Acquiring the property at 5100 Grays Avenue will secure a potential site for a new facility that is centrally located and large enough to accommodate the anticipated future fleet of articulated, ADA-accessible trolleys.
The property has an existing structure that can be adapted to SEPTA’s use as a facility and has sufficient additional land area to support the planned yard and employee parking. In addition, SEPTA’s existing trolley tracks are immediately adjacent to the roadside of the property.
“These authorizations by the board mark important milestones for two of SEPTA’s largest capital projects that will provide long-needed improvements for our riders,” said SEPTA GM/CEO Leslie S. Richards. “KOP Rail will connect the three largest employment hubs in the region — Center City, University City, and King of Prussia — increasing equity by increasing access to jobs and opportunities with frequent and reliable transit service, while Trolley Modernization will create a fully accessible trolley system with new vehicles and stations built for universal access — opening our trolley service to everyone.”
SEPTA’s Fiscal Year 2023 Capital Budget commits $390 million to advance KOP Rail to final design and progress real estate activities. The project is currently at 30% design, and construction is expected to begin in 2025 if full funding is secured. SEPTA will seek a Federal Transit Administration New Starts Capital Investment Grant to support up to 60% of the total project cost.
Funding for Trolley Modernization also comes from the Fiscal Year 2023 Capital Budget and 12-Year Program. A SEPTA-contracted independent, fair market value appraisal determined the value of the 5100 Grays Avenue property to be nearly $22 million, and negotiations with the owners are ongoing. In comparing this site to others, a cost-benefit analysis estimated a savings of about $20 million by purchasing this property and repurposing it for SEPTA’s intended use.