SEPTA pauses plan to expand rail service to King of Prussia
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- SEPTA is hitting the brakes on its plan to expand rail service to King of Prussia. The transit agency wanted to extend the Norristown High Speed Line to King of Prussia with five more stops.
But now, that won't happen because of skyrocketing costs.
Ultimately the plan's cost became way too expensive. So with the plan now on pause, commuters are disappointed.
Arnelle lives in Philly and rides Route 124 to get to her retail job in King of Prussia several times a week. She says SEPTA's proposal to extend the Norristown High Speed Line by about four miles right to the KOP Mall would have been faster than taking the bus.
"I did hear about the train being built so I was like cool it'll be a little bit quicker to get there," Arnelle said.
But SEPTA officials say costs surged to $3 billion, a rise of more than 50% since the project started. Why did it so expensive?
"When it started it was under $2 billion so this has been about a 10-year process," Andrew Busch said.
SEPTA Spokesperson Busch blames inflation and higher interest rates over the last few years for driving up the price to that $3 billion mark.
"That's just too much for where we're at right and with the other needs we have around the system," Busch said.
Another reason the project is on pause is a lack of funding. The Federal Transportation Administration denied SEPTA a grant because the FTA was concerned whether SEPTA could fund its share of the project.
"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," Leslie Richards, SEPTA's general manager and CEO, said in a statement. "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."
A contract approved in February for the rail was not executed, SEPTA said.
SEPTA said it's "disappointed" by the pause.
"The project wouldn't be viable without the grant," Busch said. "We were looking for the grant to pay for 50%-60% of that price tag."
Commuters like Arnelle hope the proposal is eventually greenlit.
"They should build it and they should pick it back up and work out the funding," Arnelle said.
SEPTA says if the project is restarted officials now have a better idea of what's needed to make it happen.
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