Port authority in new push to reopen PATCO's 'ghost station'
The on-again, off-again reopening of the Franklin Square PATCO station is on again. The Delaware River Port Authority board on Wednesday approved $500,000 in the agency's 2015 capital budget to examine reopening the "ghost station," closed since 1979.
The on-again, off-again reopening of the Franklin Square PATCO station is on again.
The Delaware River Port Authority board on Wednesday approved $500,000 in the agency's 2015 capital budget to examine reopening the "ghost station," closed since 1979.
The long-range DRPA budget estimates the total cost of reopening the station beneath Sixth and Race Streets at $12 million. No date was set for reopening it.
The rebirth of the once-seedy Franklin Square park above the station and new development nearby has brought renewed bustle to the area and renewed interest in again using the station.
For more than five years, DRPA has proposed and then shelved plans to reopen the station, citing financial constraints.
John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, the Philadelphia labor leader who represents Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on the DRPA board, has been pushing to revive the station, and pressed DRPA staff Wednesday to finish preliminary studies.
A revised cost estimate should be completed by the end of this month, with a ridership study ready by January, said chief engineer Mike Venuto.
The Franklin Square station funding was included in a $146 million capital budget approved Wednesday to fund major construction projects on DRPA's four toll bridges and the PATCO commuter rail line.
The board also approved a $283 million operating budget for 2015.
The new budgets call for no bridge toll increases or PATCO fare hikes. The board voted to defer an automatic 25-cent toll increase scheduled to take effect next month.
Chief executive John Hanson said no toll increases were likely to be needed for at least five years.
The 2015 operating budget is 2 percent higher than the 2014 budget of $277 million, driven by higher costs for electricity to power PATCO trains, insurance payments to injured customers, pensions, employee health care, and legal costs.
Almost half of the budget, $135 million, will go toward payments on DRPA's $1.6 billion debt.
Vice Chairman Jeffrey L. Nash said DRPA needed to address two major financial issues in 2015: pay raises for nonunion workers and toll discounts for regular bridge users.
DRPA workers have gone without raises for seven years.
Commuter toll discounts were phased out, ending in 2012.
"They deserve a break. . . . They're our best customers," Nash said.
The Franklin Square station opened in 1936 as the first Philadelphia stop on the Camden-Philadelphia rail line owned by the Delaware River Joint River Commission and operated by the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co.
The station soon closed because it got little use. Increased activity on the riverfront during World War II prompted its reopening.
Closed again after the war, the station was reactivated in 1953 when the line was extended from Eighth and Market Streets to 15th and Locust Streets. It was soon closed again for lack of use. PATCO took over the line in 1969.
In 1976, when Philadelphia was a center of the nation's Bicentennial celebration, PATCO spent $1.1 million to renovate and reopen Franklin Square station. It closed again in 1979.
The station now serves as an occasional storage site for construction crews working in the PATCO tunnel. It has electrical power to operate the dim emergency lights that remain and provide air-compressor power for rail switches.
The emergency exits at the closed station were opened in February so police and firefighters could rescue passengers stranded on a crowded train that broke down in the subway.