A new group of business, civic, and academic leaders backing SEPTA’s proposed Norristown High Speed Line extension to King of Prussia is portraying the project as a crucial link between the region’s largest suburban employment center and Philadelphia’s urban core.
The King of Prussia Rail Coalition was formed to promote the extension after the release late last week of a draft report on the project’s impact, an important early phase of development. Jerry Sweeney, president and chief executive of Philadelphia developer Brandywine Realty Trust, was named the group’s chairman.
The project would branch off the existing line a few stops shy of its Norristown terminus, wending west through about four miles of Upper Merion Township to end near the Valley Forge Casino Resort after stopping at the King of Prussia Mall, the King of Prussia Business Park, and other locations.
With the project’s anticipated completion in 2023 at an estimated cost of $1.1 billion, those employment-rich suburban sites would be connected to Philadelphia’s main business districts of Center City and University City via the Norristown line’s existing link to the Market-Frankford Line at 69th Street in Upper Darby.
“When we look at King of Prussia and the wonders it provides in terms of economic growth … it becomes incredibly important to make sure we do not pass King of Prussia by, that King of Prussia becomes just as accessible as other parts of our region,” Sweeney said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the rail group’s formation.
The group also includes officials with the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the King of Prussia District business association, and officials with Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Villanova University.
The organization was formed ahead of scheduled sessions next month to present the new report, a so-called Draft Environmental Impact Statement, in King of Prussia and Norristown.
When aspects of the proposal were last presented, at the start of 2016, critics said that the planned rail line would pass too close to existing homes, amid other complaints. Since then, a petition by a rail-opposition group calling itself NoKOPRail has attracted more than 800 signatures.
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