News & Reviews News Wire SEPTA ‘pauses’ work on King of Prussia rail project

SEPTA ‘pauses’ work on King of Prussia rail project

By | March 17, 2023

Lack of federal funding, soaring costs stop planned 4-mile spur of Norristown High Speed Line

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Map showing proposed four-mile branch off SEPTA Norristown line to King of Prussia, Pa.
Map showing proposed four-mile branch off SEPTA Norristown line to King of Prussia, Pa.
The route of the planned King of Prussia Rail Line, a spur from SEPTA’s Norristown High Speed Line. The project has been halted because of a lack of funding. SEPTA

PHILADELPHIA — The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has halted work on its plan to build a 4-mile spur of the Norristown High Speed Line to King of Prussia, Pa., after the project failed to receive funding from the Federal Transit Administration.

SEPTA said in a press release that it was “pausing the King of Prussia Rail project following further review of rising costs, which have been exacerbated by inflation and high interest rates.” The agency said a lack of flexibility in its capital budget was “a major factor” in the failure to receive funding under the FTA’s New Starts program, with the FTA expressing concern whether SEPTA could fund its share of the project.

The SEPTA share would include any cost overruns for a project that seen its price tag soar to $3.02 billion, up from $2.08 billion in August 2020. The agency says the price increases about $100 million with each year of delay.

“SEPTA’s capital budget has been underfunded for decades,” SEPTA CEO Leslie S. Richards said. “This has left the Authority with significantly fewer resources than peer agencies to pursue system expansion while also addressing critical infrastructure needs. With the funding we have currently, SEPTA must prioritize essential infrastructure work and safety and security improvements to maximize the reliability and effectiveness of our aging system.”

The agency had not yet executed a $125 million final design contract approved last month [see “SEPTA approves contract …,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 25, 2023]. It will announce how it plans to reallocate funds set aside for the project when its capital budget and long-term project is released in April.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the project has been criticized because of SEPTA’s estimate that it would generate about 10,000 riders daily, potentially making it one of the country’s most expensive projects on a per-passenger basis. A SEPTA spokesman said the agency has spent about $53 million so far on the project, which has been in development since 2012.






5 thoughts on “SEPTA ‘pauses’ work on King of Prussia rail project

  1. It may come down to regauging the ex P&W to Pennsylvania trolley gauge 5’2 1/2″ & extending the Market Frankford subway out to both King of Prussia and Norristown.
    The alternative being regauging the subway to 4’8 1/2″ gauge and extending the line out to Reading and or Allentown.

  2. It’s not unusual these days to see absolutely ridiculous cost estimates for building passenger rail infrastructure. But this beats all I think. At 3.2 billion dollars or 800 million dollars per mile I can’t for the life of me believe this project could even be seriously proposed. They must be planning for solid gold rails, hand hewn and polished mahogany ties and fine diamond ballast. And nobody can convince me that the millions of tax dollars that has been spent for consultants on this and other government funded projects is money well spent. I’m totally for more and expanded rail transit. But in this and many other tax dollar funded projects the cost just can’t be justified.

  3. I haven’t ridden the P&W since 1987(!). What I do recall hearing is that traffic from Norristown and Bridgeport has dropped off drastically and I think the Schuykill bridge is from 1912 and won’t last forever! 10,000 a day; how does that compare to the rest of the P&W and how do you make King of Prussia cost $3 billion anyways? Any potential for more traffic in the future? I can foresee that going to Norristown may vanish; I don’t think LVT will ever come back! Call on Google Earth or its competitors to find out what the area is like. Now the original P&W to Strafford was abandoned 1956 I think; obviously traffic must have fallen off plus it paralleled the PRR. Any reason/excuse for rebuilding that instead as a cheaper alternative?

    1. The original P&W largely paralleled the PRR Main Line. When the PRR electrified 1915-1918 they offered a one-seat ride to Center City and captured a lot of P&W’s business, but by then the 1912 Norristown Extension was in service.

      P&W today, or NHSL if you prefer, lives on connecting business from SEPTA’s bus and Elevated lines at 69th St. Terminal. I doubt if any of the executives working in KofP would ride the line but support staff is a different story. But $3.02 Billion to carry 10,000 daily riders is clearly too much money for the ridership.

      The original P&W line to Strafford is almost entirely a Rail-Trail and is still within a mile of the PRR Main Line (SEPTA’s busiest RR line, The Paoli Thorndale Line)

  4. The extension of the P&W Westward has goes back to the 1960’s when Red Arrow was privately owned. Merritt Taylor then wanted to extend the line on Reading Company’s Chester Valley Branch which ran from Bridgeport PA on RDG’s Main Line to Downingtown, on PRR’s Main Line.

    At that time, there was plenty of industry to keep the branch viable as a freight line, but gradually the industried died off and were replaced by Suburban Housing.

    Conrail abandoned most of the line by 1991and the right of way has become a rail trail.

    Theis not the current proposed extension. That is somewhat to the West and track would be mainly elevated. The current NHSL (P&W) line connects at Norristown with SEPTA’s Norristown RR line and at 69th St. with the Market St. Elevated. and at both ends with a myriad of bus routes. .

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