Source, Bucks Local News, Gary Puleo
SEPTA is looking to hire an engineering consultant to “advance further engineering of the King of Prussia Rail extension of the Norristown High Speed Line,” according to a press release. Responses to the RFP (Request For Proposal) for an engineer are due in September, when the SEPTA Board will vote to award the contract following staff recommendations on the bids.
“The extension of the Norristown High Speed Line to King of Prussia will promote and strengthen regional growth by better linking Center City, University City and King of Prussia — the Greater Philadelphia region’s three largest employment centers,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel in the release.
The RFP’s scope encompasses the detailed preliminary design work, including surveying and utility and geotechnical investigations.
“This will progress the engineering and architectural design from the conceptual Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), completing 15 percent of the total design,” the release noted.
An option is also incorporated in the RFP to design engineering tasks and delivery contract documents, including technical specifications, drawings, schedule, cost estimates, survey stake-out and construction phasing documents to complete the 30 percent design. The selected engineering consultant will be involved in taking into consideration the public’s needs as the design is developed and finalized.
“KOP Rail will benefit residents, students, our customers and businesses in the region,” said SEPTA Director of Strategic Planning & Partnerships Elizabeth Smith. “The rail extension will increase regional mobility and give customers an alternative to congested highway travel while supporting multimodal transportation.”
KOP Rail is SEPTA’s proposed extension of the existing Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) into King of Prussia, providing a “one-seat” ride to King of Prussia from either the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby, or the Norristown Transportation Center.
Earlier this year, approval by the SEPTA board of the Locally Preferred Alternative that was presented in the King of Prussia Rail (KOP Rail) Draft Environmental Impact Statement, was applauded by business leaders. As reported by this publication, the board’s action paved the way for the start of the Final Environmental Impact Statement phase of the project.
The selected route veers off the NHSL main line and follows a PECO line right-of-way from to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, then parallels the south side of the Turnpike right-of-way until it reaches King of Prussia Mall. The line then weaves behind the mall, crossing over the Turnpike to follow First Avenue down to Valley Forge Casino Resort.
Eric Goldstein, executive director of King of Prussia District (KOP-BID), which helped form the King of Prussia Rail Coalition in 2015 to raise support for the rail, applauded the Montgomery County Commissioners and SEPTA for listening to residents’ concerns and making adjustments to the initial proposed plans for the rail.
“The residents on the south side of the turnpike in a neighborhood called Valley Forge Home were objecting to the train being so close to their backyards … and they weren’t wrong,” Goldstein said. “I give credit to SEPTA and Commissioner (Valerie) Arkoosh for meeting with all of those residents a number of times in their backyards and then responding to their concerns and literally moving the train across the highway. The new development on Thursday takes that portion of the line and moves it across the turnpike to the north side so that none of the train will impact any residential property.”
Other opposition to the rail was far less compelling, Goldstein noted.
“There are certain residents of King of Prussia who are opposed to the project … more than just the people who are in the neighborhood of that proposed line. It was more like ‘we don’t want that train because we don’t want that train.’ Opposition for opposition’s sake without defensible positions behind it. In any project you propose you’re going to find people for it and against it. It doesn’t matter what it is. I could propose putting a sidewalk in a neighborhood and some people will be for it and some will be against,” he said.
The original concept was never meant to be considered the final project, Goldstein pointed out.
“SEPTA was looking at 30 different ways to get into King of Prussia and it came down to this one. Many factors, technical, environmental, community impact … all of those things were the basis for SEPTA’s two- year study.”
Goldstein said he believed that Norristown would benefit tremendously from the rail.
“The reason I believe that is two-fold,” he noted. “Norristown residents and those who live around Norristown will be able to predictably go from Norristown Transportation Center and the major employment centers in King of Prussia very fast. The other things I think will help Norristown is I believe Norristown will become very attractive to people who have jobs in King of Prussia but are looking for lower cost housing in a more urban environment. I think it could really reinvigorate the residential part of Norristown, especially the downtown area in and around where the train station is. (Municipal administrator) Crandall Jones has been a big supporter and spoke at a public hearing on the rail. The spillover effect of that is always tremendous,” Goldstein added. “If you can build the residence base it starts to produce a need for restaurants and coffee shops and all of those other great things downtown. So I think the rail will be a tremendous benefit to Norristown.”
Mike Bowman, president of Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board, said the rail would create a windfall for the region.
“From a tourism standpoint, to move people through the region to shop is so exciting, and then from a jobs standpoint, as more and more retail, restaurants and experiential venues keep coming to our county we need to keep moving employees to support all these capital assets. Just the jobs to build the rail line is a grand slam,” Bowman said. “I have to give SEPTA and the Montgomery County Commissioners credit because they listened to the residents. They had meetings with them and they’re still doing that. I applaud the residents, KOP-BID and everyone involved in this great project.”
Information and updates on KOP Rail is available at
www.kingofprussiarail.com. For more information about SEPTA, visit www.septa.org.