SEPTA has paused KOP rail project citing ‘lack of flexibility’ in its capital budget

March 20, 2023
The authority’s capital budget constraints mean it will focus on critical infrastructure projects versus expansion projects.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has made the decision to stop work on its planned King of Prussia (KOP) Rail project to dedicate its financial resources toward critical infrastructure work rather than advance this expansion project.

The project was not included in recommended funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants Program for Fiscal Year 2024. SEPTA shared FTA raised concerns during discussions last week regarding SEPTA’s ability to fund its share of the project. SEPTA explained its capital budget has a lack of flexibility, especially when compared to peer agencies that have more state and local funding available.

“SEPTA’s capital budget has been underfunded for decades. This has left the authority with significantly fewer resources than peer agencies to pursue system expansion while also addressing critical infrastructure needs,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “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.”

This essential infrastructure work includes the authority’s Market-Frankford Line fleet replacement, Trolley Modernization and station accessibility improvements. SEPTA will provide details on how funds allocated for KOP Rail will be used when the proposed capital budget and long-term program is released in April.

Richards added: “This process further highlights the critical need for new transit funding at the state and local levels. In order to pursue any service extensions in the future, SEPTA needs more support.”

SEPTA has halted all activities on KOP Rail and a contract for the project’s final design approved in February 2023 was not executed. The authority warns each year of delay in the project will result in cost increases of approximately $100 million. Coupled with higher interest rates and inflation, the cost increases are more extreme. SEPTA notes the estimated project cost increased from $2.08 billion to $2.6 billion over a two year period between August 2020 to August 2022. However, in the past seven months, the estimated costs now stands at $3.02 billion.

“We are disappointed. King of Prussia Rail would have delivered real benefits to our city and region by providing reliable public transportation connecting our three largest employment hubs in Center City, University City and King of Prussia. It would have eased congestion on area roadways and reduced air pollution,” Richards said. “We greatly appreciate all the hard work that our staff has put into this initiative, and we are grateful for the support of those who advocated for the project alongside us.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.