By Justine McDaniel, Inquirer Staff Writer
The planned rail extension to King of Prussia should create more than $1 billion in local economic activity, spawn more than 5,400 construction-related jobs, and decrease travel time for thousands of commuters, according to a report released Thursday by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.
The report, which studied the economic benefits of the $1.2 billion project, said SEPTA’s expansion of the Norristown High-Speed Line should spur growth in the entire region.
“Transit investment has a variety of various spillover effects and generates benefits in many different ways,” said Nick Frontino, managing director of strategy and operations for the Economy League.
Over 20 years, development spurred by the rail could add between $540 million and $946 million in real estate value to the area and 4.3 million to 8 million square feet of new office, retail, and residential development, the report said.
And that could bring 1,000 or more jobs annually, or up to 29,000 new employees in King of Prussia over 20 years. More than 45,000 people now work in the area, which is part of Upper Merion Township, Montgomery County – better than double the population.
But the rail expansion still lacks funding.
SEPTA has $20 million in federal money that should get the project through 30 percent of the design phase, the report said. It plans to apply for more federal funds through the competitive New Starts program.
Construction is slated to start in 2020, and the line to open in 2023.
King of Prussia is the largest employment center in the region aside from Philadelphia, and 90 percent of commuters who work there drive, the report said. The majority travel more than 30 minutes.
The rail addition would save an estimated 30 minutes of transit travel time for those traveling from Center City; 20 minutes from Norristown; and 10 minutes from Upper Darby.
It would total an estimated 104,000 to 217,000 hours saved by transit riders per year, the report said, which equates to a cost savings between $2.6 million and $4.7 million.
And drivers would save 1.7 million to 2.1 million hours per year, which is valued at $36.4 million to $44.5 million.
The effects of the expansion would also reduce vehicle miles traveled by up to 18 million, reducing congestion on the roadways and increasing rail use, the report predicted.
The Economy League also anticipated that the project would spur business and housing development in King of Prussia, attracting new employees and new residents.
“We think that this could make King of Prussia more of a live-work-play community,” Frontino said.
BY THE NUMBERS
$946M added to real estate value over 20 years by the rail extension.
29,000 new employees added over 20 years.
$193.7M added in annual construction spending over 20 years.
217,000 fewer hours traveled by transit riders over one year.
2.1M fewer hours traveled by drivers over one year.
18M fewer vehicle miles traveled over one year.
Source: Economy League of Greater Philadelphia