Inquirer: DRPA light-rail plan costlier than one city rejected

Inquirer: DRPA light-rail plan costlier than one city rejected

Did Philadelphia miss a chance for a cheaper, faster way to get a streetcar line along the Delaware River waterfront?

In October, city officials endorsed a plan from the Delaware River Port Authority for a light-rail line along Columbus Boulevard with a connecting line on Market Street to City Hall.

But last year, they rejected a similar proposal for a privately built line with a lower price tag and an earlier completion date. That plan also would have included service to the Navy Yard and the South Philadelphia sports complex, which are just future options in the DRPA plan.

Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation, said the earlier proposal had a number of problems, including an unrealistic time frame and a public-private partnership not permitted under current law.

“In addition, if we were to ever consider a public-private partnership, we would be required to do a public bid,” Cutler said. “I think a public-public partnership has more of a chance of actually happening, so that is what I am supporting.”

The public-private plan was proposed by a group that included builders, operators, and financiers involved in the Hudson-Bergen light-rail line and River Line in New Jersey, the Houston Metro light-rail line, and transit systems in Ireland, Spain, France, Sweden, and Australia.

The Philadelphia light-rail line was proposed to be run by Veolia Transportation, a French company that operates rail systems in Los Angeles, Boston, South Florida, and northern San Diego County.

The public-private plan was priced at $430 million, including service to the Navy Yard and sports complex, but not to Center City. The DRPA plan is estimated to cost $500 million, including service to Center City, but not to the Navy Yard or the sports complex.

The public-private plan was to be completed in 51/2 years, including project development, environmental assessment, final design, and construction.

The DRPA line, if it gets the necessary funding, could be ready for operation in about 61/2 years – in early 2016, DRPA and city officials have said.

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