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.”
“CSX Transportation is pleased to work with SEPTA on the TIGER V grant application and this project to separate West Trenton Regional Rail commuter operations from freight rail operations on a six-mile segment of CSXT-owned track,” said William Goetz, CSX’s resident vice president.
“This is an excellent example of a public-private sector partnership which will clearly benefit the region and its economy.”
Members of the southeastern Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation noted the benefits of the project.
“This project will have a huge positive impact on the everyday lives of those commuting and traveling to Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (PA). “By prioritizing transit vehicles and making improvements to railways, this program will make Southeastern Pennsylvania an even more attractive place to live, work and visit.”
“SEPTA and CSX have worked together to devise a cost-effective plan that will streamline passenger and freight operations in Bucks County,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (PA). “I applaud the Department of Transportation's decision to support this important rail improvement project.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08), in whose district the project is located, noted the increasing importance of rail travel in the region “both for local commuters who rely on SEPTA’s regional service, as well as for companies advancing area commerce.”
“The announcement of the $10 million TIGER Grant to SEPTA to update the West Trenton Line between Middletown Township and West Trenton is extremely important to both travel and freight interests in the area, which stand to gain from modernization, expansion, and increased safety efforts at what has become a bottle-neck point in the rail system,” Fitzpatrick said. “By awarding funds for the construction project, both parties will see expanded benefits – as well as the ability to avoid massive budget burdens to comply with new federal rail regulations. I stand as a strong supporter of regional rail service and the benefit it brings to the area, and I will continue to advocate for support for these critical projects.”
U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (PA-13) said: “A modern, safe and reliable transportation infrastructure system is vital to our region's quality of life and economic competitiveness. I fought for this TIGER grant because it offers a significant opportunity to move people and goods in a smarter, more efficient way. This investment is an important victory for the residents and businesses of southeastern Pennsylvania."
“The Department of Transportation has made a key investment in our region’s transit that will both strengthen our local economy and expand our economic competiveness,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (PA-02). “While passengers across the region will benefit from a safer, more modern public transit system, the freight capacity in the area will be enhanced and streamlined, which is increasingly critical for the Port of Philadelphia. This grant is welcome news for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.”
“A safe and efficient public transportation system is critical to my constituents,” said U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady (PA-01). “Additionally, SEPTA is one of our region's largest and most important employers. That is why I was proud to work with my regional colleagues to win this grant.”
U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (PA-07) said: “Thousands of commuters across southeastern Pennsylvania rely on SEPTA for their commutes to and from work every day. As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I’m working with my colleagues to ensure federal transportation dollars are spent effectively and efficiently. This federal grant support will enable SEPTA to improve service on one of its most heavily used regional rail lines. It will enhance SEPTA’s service and reliability and will promote passenger, freight and port mobility throughout the region.”