Dilworth Plaza construction causes Market Frankford Line platform congestion

In September PlanPhilly reported that pedestrians were having trouble getting around City Hall because of Dilworth Plaza construction, but pedestrians above ground are not the only ones affected. Those traveling below ground through SEPTA’s concourses are facing a bit of a construction-induced headache, as well. 

As part of the ongoing Dilworth Plaza construction project, Center City District has blocked off portions of the Market Frankford Line (MFL) platform at SEPTA’s 15th Street Station. The work is being done to install new elevators and new stairs, but in the process the construction has meant added congestion during rush hour and leaking ceilings during rain and winter weather. 

The Dilworth Plaza project is a $50 million investment spearheaded by the Center City District. The project will completely renovate the open space to the west of City Hall with the intention of improving the pedestrian landscape and adding a café, public art, water features and lawn-event space. It will also make SEPTA’s 15th Street Station more accessible by installing new stairs and elevators to the MFL platform. To do so, contractors must remove portions of the station’s ceiling and install scaffolding along sections of the active platform. 

Now, to get from the Broad Street Line at City Hall Station to the MFL at 15th Street Station, passengers have to walk through partially blocked off, and in some cases rerouted, passages. Because passengers must walk beneath areas where portions of the ceiling have been removed, many of these narrowed passages are also leaky.

“Unfortunately, when both the plaza level and part of the concourse level is removed from above the platforms, the area is more open to the elements,” said Center City District President and CEO Paul Levy in an email. 

“But Keating, our contractor has been working to create temporary covers over this area to limit the penetration of rain and to ensure safety.”

Around the construction area, plastic tarps can be seen lining portions of the ceilings. Some have hoses funneling water into large trash bins. Others slant down and drain water into the bins. In some areas buckets and trash bins attempt to collect drips and yellow caution signs straddle visibly damp areas. 

Daniel J. Keating Company did not respond to phone call or email inquiries regarding the construction.

Sonya Bruce who catches the Market Frankford Line at 15th Street Station said, “It leaks but not bad, like it used to years ago.”

Bruce said she’s more concerned that the work is a waste of tax money and that there is not enough information available to the public. 

“You can read the signs, but they still aren’t obvious for you,” she said. “If they had somebody down here… that would be much better.”

Jamaal Ragans brings his five kids to school on the Market Frankford Line everyday and said because of the narrowed passageways people bump into each other and are forced to walk along the edge of the platform. Some days, he said, construction crews block off one of the hallways, making the two-way traffic flow even more crowded.

“I think it’s trying to create a criminal aspect of life,” Ragans said. “I think so because you do certain things in a not peaceful city, what [do] you think can happen? You know, you can see a couple people walking by, bump each other, and one person might have a bad day or he might just be into that type of lifestyle, you know, or he got a crew with him, and a fight breaks out in the middle of the hallway or the middle of the platform.”

While he has not seen any fights in the construction areas, he said, “There was one time I was walking by with the kids, I had to yell I was going up to even get by because it’s so crowded.”

Ragans is not the only one having trouble getting through. 

“It’s a nuisance because I just missed my train,” said Marcy McBride. “I could’ve caught it if that [scaffolding] wasn’t there.”

When asked about the leaking ceilings, McBride nodded and tapped her umbrella on the floor.

“It’s raining inside,” she said. 

Bruce said rush hour makes the passages more crowded and pushes people closer to the edge of the platform. 

“It’s still dangerous,” she said. “That yellow line don’t mean nothing.”

Levy said there will probably be work around the platforms for the next four to five months but that the work will be limited to the areas it is currently impacting at the platform level. 

Contact the reporter at cfisher@planphilly.com

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