Despite mounting financial uncertainty, SEPTA is doubling down its commitment to a $2 billion project that would extend rail service to bustling King of Prussia between 2025 and 2027.
SEPTA officials held a virtual public meeting Tuesday to give an update on the Norristown High Speed Line’s proposed extension into the area, sharing changes to its route as well as new renderings of its five stations to give the audience “a better idea for the look and the feel for what this will mean for them,” said Ryan Judge, SEPTA strategic planning manager.
The meeting was the first large-scale update on KoP Rail since 2017. Like its other ambitious plans, including trolley modernization, the extension would need additional sources of funding before becoming a reality, and how to pay for it was a puzzling question long before financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officials shared the latest price tag of the mammoth project during Tuesday’s webinar. The estimated cost has grown from $1.3 billion to $2 billion due to inflation as well as changes to design and real estate acquisition costs, said Liz Smith, SEPTA’s chief administration officer. The project connecting King of Prussia, Center City, and University City will lean partially on federal dollars as it progresses, with officials wrapping up a final environmental impact statement by early next year to submit to the Federal Transit Administration.
SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards called the KoP Rail project “extremely important” to the region’s future. Planning began in 2012, and it was once expected to carry riders in 2023.
“While we are in a very difficult position right now with the pandemic ... SEPTA in the future includes service to King of Prussia, “ she said. “It is part of our system that doesn’t exist now, and it’s a way that we can truly strengthen our Regional Rail.”