SEPTA will receive a $10 million federal grant for a critical project that will improve safety and service on the West Trenton Regional Rail Line, members of the southeastern Pennsylvania congressional delegation announced Sept. 4.
The award will be made through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER V program, to help fund the SEPTA-CSX separation project. The project has a total estimated cost of approximately $38 million.
This effort, which is a partnership between SEPTA and CSX Transportation, will separate passenger and freight rail operations – both of which are experiencing sustained growth – along a six-mile portion of track owned by CSX between the Woodbourne and West Trenton Stations.
Currently, this shared segment of track carries 57 SEPTA trains each day, serving riders on the West Trenton Line. Ridership on the West Trenton Line has increased by more than 60 percent over the last decade – to approximately 12,500 passenger trips on an average weekday – making it one of the most heavily travelled routes in the transit system.
The shared track span also provides a key route to moving goods throughout the greater Philadelphia region, with over 20 freight trains passing through daily. It provides access to the Port of Philadelphia, making it critical to the local economy, and also has an impact nationally in linking CSX’s north-south network.
The increased activity in both passenger and freight service, however, has created heavy traffic and delays, particularly during rush hour. By upgrading this six-mile stretch, including construction of a new four-mile track on the main portion for passenger trains, SEPTA and CSX will be able to relieve this congestion, and provide room for future growth. There will also be upgrades to existing track and other infrastructure, which will allow for more efficient operations.
“This project is not only critical to SEPTA and CSX, but to the region as a whole,” said SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale “Pat” T. Deon Sr. “This will significantly enhance a portion of the rail corridor that is vital to our economy – ensuring that commuters have reliable transportation to get to-and-from work, and that businesses can send and receive goods efficiently and effectively.”
The project will also clear the way for SEPTA to fully implement Positive Train Control (PTC), a signal-based rail safety system mandated by federal law. PTC must be implemented throughout SEPTA’s Regional Rail system and all other commuter and freight rail systems nationwide by the end of 2015.
SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey thanked the U.S. Department of Transportation for their support of the project, and lauded efforts by local elected officials to help secure the funding.
“SEPTA would like to thank the southeastern Pennsylvania congressional delegation, including Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, for their support in the effort to obtain federal funding for this initiative,” said SEPTA GM Casey. “We’re grateful to the U.S. Department of Transportation for this award, and we’re proud to be recognized as good stewards of the taxpayer money we receive. We believe that the SEPTA-CSX Separation project will generate benefits in keeping with the mission of the TIGER program. We look forward to working in partnership with CSX through construction for the project, and to delivering the service improvements it will bring to our customers upon completion.”