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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Agreement reached on Philadelphia waterfront transit expansion plan

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Standing with U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler, SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey, DRPA Board Chair John H. Estey, Board Vice Chair Jeff Nash and others, DRPA CEO and PATCO President, John J. Matheussen, announced an agreement that will result in Light Rail Service along Market Street between City Hall and the Delaware River Waterfront initially serving Pier 70 to the South and SEPTA's Route 15 Trolley at Girard Avenue to the North.

Locations served would include Independence Mall, the Market East Regional Rail Station, City Hall, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Reading Terminal Market, PATCO and SEPTA's 8th and Market Street Station, numerous other transportation facilities, Penn's Landing and other residential, employment and entertainment destinations along Columbus Boulevard. Selection of the Route means the project can now advance to the environmental analysis phase. The $500-million dollar project could begin operations in six years.

The decision to select Market Street as the preferred route for the new light rail service is based upon almost two years of analysis, extensive input received at four public open houses session and numerous meetings with community groups and stakeholders.

Those involved in the selection process include the DRPA Board of Commissioners, PATCO General Manager Bob Box, PATCO Assistant General Manager Cheryl Spicer, Senator Specter, Congresswoman Schwartz, Mayor Nutter, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler, City Council, SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, PENNDOT, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the Center City District and PennPraxis.

According to Mayor Nutter, "there is no better place than Market Street for a light rail line. This is a decision that will pay dividends 15, 20, 30 years from now."

PATCO Chairman, John H. Estey, said the process has worked well. "We appreciate both the input and cooperation of Mayor Nutter, Deputy Mayor Cutler and SEPTA. A direct connection between City Hall and the Philadelphia waterfront will serve as a catalyst for economic development as well as an added service for our customers."

And, according to PATCO General Manager, Bob Box, "This announcement allows the process to continue that will lead to new transportation options for PATCO and SEPTA riders who have long sought a more convenient way to access the Philadelphia waterfront. This is a project that is very scalable with the potential for future expansion south to the Navy Yard and Sports Complex, north to the North Delaware Waterfront and even further west along Market Street."

The Delaware River Port Authority is a regional transportation agency. DRPA owns and operates the Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross Bridges, PATCO and the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal. The DRPA also owns the RiverLink Ferry.

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