The line, which could be operated by SEPTA or PATCO, would be designed to improve transportation and spur development on the Philadelphia waterfront. It also would provide service between two casinos planned for the riverfront, Foxwoods to the south and SugarHouse to the north.
A similar $9-million contract was approved last year for preliminary design and environmental studies for a proposed $1.5-billion, 18-mile light-rail extension between Camden and Glassboro.
The Philadelphia trolleys could be running by 2016 if federal funding is available, port authority officials said. A Market Street light-rail line is proposed to connect the waterfront line to Center City.
The no-bid contract approved March 17 would allow the agency to pay up to $6.5 million to Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering firm that earlier was awarded a $750,000 contract to evaluate route proposals for the line.
In other business, the board approved a $1.6 million contract for repairs to rail switches, signals, and other equipment in PATCO's Lindenwold rail yard at the eastern end of the line. The contract went to the Railroad Construction Co. of South Jersey Inc.