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SEPTA readies for fifth annual Trolley Tunnel Blitz

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
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As has been the case for the past four summers, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will again close its Center City tunnel for nine days to perform a maintenance blitz.

The five-mile, single loop tunnel will be closed to trolley service from 10 p.m. on Friday, July 13, through 4 a.m. on Monday July 23 in order for crews to perform power, track, and station improvements.

“The trolley tunnel is used 24 hours a day, making it difficult for our crews to get productive work windows to complete necessary repairs and improvements,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel. “The blitzes have allowed our crews to replace switches and thousands of feet of rail and overhead contact wire, and undertake an aggressive improvement and cleaning program at the trolley stations. The program we implemented five years ago and have executed over the past four summers has made a significant difference on how the Trolley Tunnel infrastructure performs over the course of the year.”

SEPTA’s Track Department has scheduled several upgrades to the track systems for this year’s Tunnel Trolley Blitz, including: replacing a track switch inside the 40th Street Portal at the bypass track and the eastbound guarded curve entering the Portal; reconstructing the eastbound and westbound tangent tracks on Woodland Avenue between the Portal and Chester Avenue (including a new street surface); renewing the eastbound and westbound guarded curves entering and exiting the 36th Street Portal (including new paving); and replacing the westbound guarded curve rails east of 15th Street West Plaza Station. The Track Department will also work on clearing clogged track drains throughout the tunnel.

Members of SEPTA’s Power Department will remove approximately 15,000 feet of abandoned conduit and communication cables on north wall of the tunnel between 19th Street-30th Street Stations. The Power Department will also perform maintenance work in the substation.

SEPTA says that additional work scheduled during the tunnel closure includes:

  • Installation of new energy efficient lighting within the tunnel between 36th and 37th Street Stations
  • Testing relays (electrical switches) and performing maintenance on switches at Ludlow Interlocking
  • Performing heavy maintenance tasks at all stations including graffiti removal, tile repair, painting, track bed cleaning and heavy cleaning at all stations
  • Testing emergency generators and lighting throughout the tunnel
  • Addressing water leaks at stations and in the tunnel through crack-injection and other rehabilitation improvements
  • Inspecting, testing and maintaining track circuits and other signal aspects (visual indication) at Portals and throughout the tunnel
  • Upgrading signal heads to incorporate LED technology between 22nd and 30th Street Stations

SEPTA explains that the tunnel closure will also allow its in-house and third party contractors time needed to work on two additional projects: the 15th Street Station Improvements Project and the University City District’s (UCD) 40th Street Portal Project. At 15th Street Station, third party contractors will continue with accessibility (ADA) improvements including shoring and framework for the new elevators and structural repairs. At the 40th Street Portal, SEPTA crews will install a new pipe that ties into the UCD storm water management system.

“The projects we work on during the blitzes improve safety and service reliability throughout the Trolley Tunnel,” said Knueppel. “We thank our customers for their continued support and understanding during these closures. We will work to make this year’s blitz as productive and successful as in previous years.”

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