Planning for King of Prussia rail service moving ahead - Mercury News

NORRISTOWN >> It’s full speed ahead for the King of Prussia Rail Project.

At Thursday’s Montgomery County Commissioner’s’ meeting, SEPTA’s Director of Strategic Planning and Partnerships Elizabeth Smith laid out the details of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Study in a presentation highlighting the progress of the rail extension that will connect the Norristown High Speed Line to King of Prussia by way of the subway terminal at 69th and Market streets in Upper Darby into Center City Philadelphia.

Smith outlined several aspects of the ongoing project beginning with an overview of its necessity in order to serve the largest metro employment center beyond the city limits.

With 20 million visitors per year flocking to the shopping mecca that is the King of Prussia Mall and an additional 2.1 million history buffs and recreation aficionados seeking out Valley Forge National Historical Park, the project aims to provide faster and more efficient transportation to tourists and some of the 60,000 people who work in Upper Merion, including 12,500 at the mall and 19,000 at area office parks.

At a cost of $1.1 to $1.2 billion, the “spur extension” — that will branch off from the existing rail system in Upper Merion adjacent to Saulin Boulevard and head through the mall complex, King of Prussia Business Park and extend toward the area of the Valley Forge Casino Resort, which is a stone’s throw away from national park grounds — is expected to nearly double ridership to close to 20,000 commuters per day and slash commute times from 13th and Market streets in Philadelphia to the business campus in King of Prussia by more than an hour, Smith said.

Currently, all direct routes from the city to the business center of King of Prussia are provided by buses which must travel on the often congested Schuylkill Expressway.

Smith expressed appreciation for the input of local residents, who have voiced their opinions — both pro and con — regarding the proposed route and construction issues pertaining to the project.

One of the changes that sprang from the community meetings was a modification in the project’s design to the section of the elevated (17 foot high) 4.5 mile tram line traversing the Pa. Turnpike to alleviate residents’ concerns in Valley Forge Homes and Brandywine Village. The proposed change will shift the rail line’s alignment to distance it from existing properties in accordance with the mandated considerations•• of the Locally Preferred Alternative.

Commissioners’ Chairwoman Val Arkoosh said the county’s role, if any, in terms of direct funding for the project is unclear, but SEPTA is expected to ask for more than $500 million in funding from the state and other sources.

In other business, the commissioners heard about the implementation of the PulsePoint AED “Easiest Scholarship Ever Contest,” that awards a $250 scholarship to county students who document the location of automated external defibrillators each month.


• The Montgomery County Department of Behavioral Health/Developmental Disabilities was approved for $2.36 million in budgeted contracts to provide for: private psychiatric inpatient services at BHC Northwest Psychiatric Hospital in Fort Washington ($75,000); mental health community residential services at the Pennsylvania Institute for community Living ($796,690); and administrative, coordinator, crisis intervention, evaluation and training costs at Montgomery County Emergency Services.

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