PATCO commuters should expect transit headaches this week as repairs from pole run-in continue

Workers assessing damage from a Conrail train's collision with a PATCO power pole.

Workers assessing damage from a Conrail train's collision with a PATCO power pole. (courtesy of PATCO)

There are plenty of pros to taking PATCO to work — skip bridge tolls, no traffic, a smaller carbon footprint — but this morning had one huge con: Conrail.

A Conrail freight train running on tracks parallel to PATCO’s in Camden hit a steel power pole this morning. The incident completely shut down PATCO trains for much of the morning, and then severely limited service between Broadway station in Camden and 15th/16th Street Station in Philadelphia.

Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) CEO John Hanson said the tracks should be clear in time for the evening rush. “Our plan right now is to have the first westbound train leave Lindenwold at 4 pm and should arrive at 15/16th at 4:30,” said Hanson. “Then, we should be running trains every 18 minutes.”

That collision ripped a power conduit from the retaining wall next to PATCO’s line and onto the tracks at the mouth of an underground tunnel. Around 5:30 a.m., the operator of an eastbound PATCO train exiting that tunnel slammed on the brakes upon seeing the conduit, but still wound up hitting the downed power lines.

PATCO reported four minor injuries.

Most PATCO riders board at stations before Camden, and the disruption caused traffic snarls on the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges, which, like PATCO, are operated by the DRPA.

The DRPA has launched an investigation into why the Conrail train struck the PATCO steel pole. When asked if the pole might have had some kind of structural defect, Hanson dismissed the idea.

“There is no evidence that the pole was leaning in any way,” said Hanson. “It’s a steel pole.”

PATCO expects to run limited services while repairs continue this week, with frequencies about on par with snow schedules. PATCO will be reduced to a single track at the site of the incident, which also knocked out PATCO’s signaling for the entire stretch of track between Broadway Station and Ferry Station. That means that employees using hand signals will provide trains the all clear to proceed ahead.

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