By Anthony Campisi
SEPTA got its largest stimulus project under way Wednesday with a ceremonial groundbreaking, kicking off the reconstruction of the Spring Garden Street and Girard Avenue stations on the Broad Street Line.
The stations haven’t seen major renovations since they were built in 1928 and serve a total of more than 10,000 riders a day.
SEPTA will install elevators on the street and mezzanine levels, put in new cashier booths and fare lines and construct new stairwell and elevator headhouses for passengers.
The authority will also restore the ceilings, walls, floors, support columns and platforms of both stations, install energy-efficient lighting and improve station security systems. The new stations will be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
SEPTA general manager Joe Casey said that with the renovations, the stations will be on-par with other restored stations on the Broad Street Line south of City Hall.
Expected to cost $25 million, the restoration will be the largest single project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has pumped $191 million into 32 “shovel-ready” projects at the authority.
SEPTA had been planning on renovating both stations, but didn’t have enough money in its capital budget on hand to start on the projects, Casey explained. Without the stimulus package, construction probably would have begun in two years.
The authority says that more than 200 people will be employed in the renovations, including almost 100 construction jobs and over 100 jobs in support positions with suppliers and contractors.
Out of a total of 25 outside contractors SEPTA has hired for the project, six are based in Philadelphia.
In a short ceremony before the groundbreaking, Casey called the renovations “the major [stimulus] project in Center City Philadelphia” SEPTA is undertaking.
SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney also pointed out that the Spring Garden renovations coincide with the sale of the nearby Philadelphia State Office Building to private developers — SEPTA hopes that this project will bring new economic life to that area of North Broad Street.
Though SEPTA and area officials didn’t actually break ground — it being North Broad, the dignitaries put their shovels into a large trough filled with dirt — a backhoe was stationed on the northeast corner of Spring Garden and Broad streets to begin work after the press conference. The project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2011.
SEPTA riders interviewed at the Spring Garden stop expressed cautious optimism about the renovations.
Ken Harris, who uses the Spring Garden station to get to the Free Library, said that the renovations are “long overdue.”
He said that the current station is “not user-friendly.” His one concern, though, is that, as in other stations, the the elevators installed here will be placed far away from fare lines, forcing elderly and disabled people to travel a long distance to get to their trains.
Robert Cleveland, who lives in Southwest Philadelphia, said that he’s been impressed with recent service improvements, especially on the Market-Frankford El. However, he said that “they need to do a whole lot of alterations” to improve the Broad Street Line.
Judith Ross, a senior citizen who is hard of sight and uses a cane to walk, lauded the installation of elevators. She said that the first flight of stairs leading underground was difficult for her to use.
“Hooray for the elevators!” she yelled as she slowly descended step-by-step, right arm clutching the railing.
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