Friends of 40th Street need a lift

Graphics courtesy of Wells Appel.

40th Street and Market Street planning process

Oct. 12

By Anthony Campisi
For PlanPhilly

Getting an elevator installed at a SEPTA station takes awhile.

Just ask the Friends of 40th Street, a neighborhood group that’s been pushing for one at the 40th Street Market-Frankford El station.

The group argues that the station is a perfect candidate. It’s one of only two west of the Schuylkill River that isn’t Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible. It’s near important Philadelphia institutions, like the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. And it serves a large elderly and disabled population, who live in housing developments at 39th and Market streets and 40th and Filbert streets and can’t walk down the steep stairs to the train platforms.

“One thing that the community has always mentioned from the get-go was they’d love an elevator at 40th and Market,” said Curt Hess, senior vice president of real estate operations at the University City Science Center, which is working with the neighborhood on a streetscaping project near the station.

“There’s an awful lot of senior citizens in that immediate area,” Hess said, adding that the issue gets brought up at nearly every community meeting.

“It’s been an ongoing conversation with SEPTA,” explained George Stevens, an area businessman active in the Friends of 40th Street who once saw an elderly man almost get knocked to the ground as he descended the station’s stairs.

The real push for the elevator began when neighborhood groups started planning for a seven-block, $4 million streetscaping project early last year. The University City Science Center, the University City District and other area groups are replacing sidewalks, installing pedestrian lighting and adding bike racks from 37th through 41st streets along Market Street.

But residents will have to wait at least several more years before they get an elevator.

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Though elevator installation at 40th Street is in SEPTA’s five-year capital plan, no money has been allocated for it.

“They don’t have funds, currently, to install an elevator there,” Rogers said, in part because the project — SEPTA estimated would cost about $10 million to make the stations fully ADA accessible — is “extremely expensive.”

SEPTA’s approach to handicapped accessibility was called into question last month, when a federal judge ordered the authority to build new elevators in the courtyard of City Hall and at 15th and Market streets. The court found that current elevators were placed too far away from the station.

SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said that the 40th Street El stop is one of six stations on the El and Broad Street Line to which the authority has given priority for making ADA improvements.

Of those, Allegheny on the Broad Street Line is expected to have construction completed by 2012, and the Margaret-Orthodox station on the El is in the design phase for its elevator.

The Race-Vine station on the Broad Street Line is next, followed by the 40th Street El stop and the Erie and Snyder stops on the Broad Street Line. It hasn’t yet been determined which station among the last three will see construction first.

Not included in the list are major renovations at the Spring Garden and Girard stations on the Broad Street Line, which are being funded by federal stimulus dollars and which will include ADA improvements as required by law.

The six were chosen based on ridership, connections with other transit service and proximity to “disability magnet sites” like hospitals and homes for the elderly, Busch said. The Margaret-Orthodox station, for instance, is close to Frankford Hospital, and the Race-Vine station is near the Convention Center.

SEPTA is also planning on making 20 additional stations throughout the system accessible. The authority’s capital budget allocates $3 million in funding for accessible stations this fiscal year and calls for about $22.9 million in spending over the next three fiscal years.

The only way to speed up the process for 40th Street, Hess said SEPTA officials told him, was to secure an outside source of funding, like a congressional earmark.

Rep. Chaka Fattah, whose district includes the station, hasn’t been contacted about the issue, a spokesman said.

Here’s a link to the PlanPhilly article of the construction project — http://www.planphilly.com/node/9769

Contact the reporter at campisi.anthony@gmail.com


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