DRPA update: New LCDs, now; real time info, soon; bridge work, neverending.

PATCO riders everywhere will get to enjoy staring at brand new LCD and LED screens while waiting for their trains by the end of this month. The Delaware River Port Authority Operations and Maintenance committee approved a $1.76 million contract with SimplexGrinnell to install the displays at six more stations: Ashland, Westmont, Collingswood, City Hall, 9-10th & Locust St., and 12-13th and Locust St.  

Last year, the same company began installing new LCD and LED screens at PATCO’s seven busiest stations. That work, which is finishing up now, was Phase 1 of PATCO’s Passenger Information & Messaging System (PIMS), and today’s action advanced Phase 2. In Phase 3, all of the PATCO cars will be overhauled to provide the displays real time train information.

PATCO General Manager John Rink noted that real time information won’t happen until the entire fleet is overhauled. After the meeting, Rink said he expects the overhaul to be completed in late 2016 or early 2017, with work on overhauling the train cars and installing additional infrastructure support starting next year. Once that happens, PATCO’s system will push real time data to the LCDs in the stations and LEDs on the platforms.

Once Phase 3 is finished, PATCO Project Manager Phil Spinnelli said the PIMS data will be made available to developers, so they can create scheduling apps.

In the meantime, the LCDs will show a wide variety of content: updates from PATCO, twitter feeds, weather updates and advertisements. No word yet if DRPA will use PIMS to advertise Pimm’s.


PATCO also announced this morning a revised Thursday-Friday schedule starting next Thursday, February 12th, as work on its $103 million track rehabilitation project begins. The work will last through the end of March.

The electronic signal and communications systems along the south side of the Ben Franklin Bridge are being updated. While work is done, all trains – both eastbound and westbound – will run on the north side of the track from 10 am Thursday through Sunday night. PATCO still expects to run rush hour trains as frequently as every two minutes to Philly on Friday mornings and back to Jersey on Thursday and Friday nights.

The work won’t affect the rest of the week – both tracks will be open Monday through Thursday morning rush hour. The regular weekend schedule of trains every 30 minutes will also continue. During the PHS Flower Show, the weekend service increases to run trains every 15 minutes, helping Jersey residents hurry over to the Convention Center so they can finally stop and smell the roses.

Revised schedules are available on the PATCO website.


The O&M Committee also approved additional repairs on the Betsy Ross Bridge over the next six months.  The 2014 biennial inspection revealed some minor corrosion – no cracks – under the main span. The repairs will prevent further deterioration and will cost $734,900.  DRPA solicited bids from three firms that are currently working on DRPA properties and American Bridge, which is working on the Walt Whitman Bridge, submitted the lowest bid. It was noted that American Bridge’s structural work on the Walt Whitman was a month ahead of schedule.

The committee also approved a qualified list of general engineering consultant services for a set of unspecified projects under $250,000. DRPA received 66 proposals from 35 different firms to cover a range of small projects expected over the next three years. While it might seem odd to approve a proposal before there’s a specific project identified, DRPA Chief Engineer Mike Venuto noted that creating a qualified list like this speeds the contracting process along in the future. Rather than bidding out each specific small project and then negotiating terms and seeking board approval piecemeal, DRPA can now pick these vendors off the shelf for simple jobs.

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