By the end of the year, a nearly two-year rehab project on the Ben Franklin Bridge that has slowed PATCO trains will be finished, and rail service will return to a normal schedule.
The $103 million project, which included replacing railroad ties from the 1980s, cabling and power boxes from the 1950s, and signaling and communications equipment, "will give the track structure 25 to 30-plus years of life expectancy," said John Rink, the Port Authority Transit Corp. general manager. "We completed an important capital project to keep our assets in working order."
The project began in fall 2013 and has caused an adjusted schedule since January 2014, Rink said. Recently, the need to clear leaves from the rails led to a further modified schedule.
Those adjustments will end Thursday, which will mean a regular schedule Monday through Thursday morning, with a modified schedule Thursday afternoon through Sunday to accommodate the final stages of the infrastructure upgrade. That modified schedule should end in three weeks, Rink said.
The work, funded by the Delaware River Port Authority capital account, covered track across the bridge to the two portals on either end, in Camden and Philadelphia. It forced trains running east and west to occasionally travel on one track, causing delays. The disruption was necessary, Rink said, to get the project done quickly and more cheaply.
"If we were to do this in piecemeal over a 55-hour weekend, we would be out there for several more years," he said. "The cost would have exceeded the $103 million we spent on the project, and it would have taken three times as long as it would taken right now."
PATCO will run a holiday schedule on Christmas and New Year's weekends, which will be posted in mid-December. The present schedule, which takes into account the adjustments on Thursday through Sunday, can be seen at http://bit.ly/21tgv7s.