King of Prussia Rail Project impression

USA: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has ended all development of the King of Prussia Rail Project, after it was not recommended for FY2024 federal New Starts funding.

The cost of the proposed 6·4 km five-station branch off Philadelphia’s Norristown High Speed Line third-rail interurban line was estimated at $2·08bn in August 2020, $2·6bn in August 2022 and $3·02bn today. SEPTA blames inflation and high interest rates for the cost escalation.

SEPTA committed $390m for KOP Rail in its FY2023 Capital Budget, and sought funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant programme to support up to 60% of the total cost.

However, FTA raised concerns about whether SEPTA could fund its share, including any cost overruns. SEPTA said its capital budget is constrained, and it would not jeopardise other projects, such as the Market-Frankford Line metro fleet replacement, tramway modernisation or station accessibility improvements to take forward the expansion project.

A contract for HNTB Corp to provide design services will not be executed, and SEPTA will use the resources allocated to KOP Rail for other works.

‘SEPTA’s capital budget has been underfunded for decades’, said the authority’s General Manager & CEO Leslie S Richards on March 17. ‘This has left the authority with significantly fewer resources than peer agencies to pursue system expansion while also addressing critical infrastructure needs. With the funding we have currently, SEPTA must prioritise essential infrastructure work and safety and security improvements to maximise the reliability and effectiveness of our ageing system.’

Richards said ‘this process further highlights the critical need for new transit funding at the state and local levels. In order to pursue any service extensions in the future, SEPTA needs more support.’