People visiting Independence Hall, Chinatown or Old City are one step closer to a transit option that’s been out commission for 40 years.
PATCO has won a $12.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to repair, remodel and reopen its abandoned Franklin Square Station located at Race Street between 6th and 7th streets. The station closed in 1979.
“This project will both support and spark growth in the area of the Franklin Square Station,” said John T. Hanson, PATCO President and Delaware River Port Authority CEO. “There would be 1,500 new riders as a result of that station and we’re inclined to believe that the number would be higher, based on the idea that people will begin to use PATCO to travel to Franklin Square and areas nearby within the city, as well as coming from New Jersey.”
The station opened in 1936 as part of the Bridge Line operation between 8th and Market in Philadelphia and Broadway in Camden but closed after WWII. It was used sporadically in 1953 and between 1976 and 1979, but the park was often used for illicit activities, access was difficult and there were not enough passengers using the stop.
PATCO believes the demand for an operational station will be greater now than it was in the past.
“There is a lot of construction, a lot of new business and a lot of new people in the City of Philadelphia. There is new life in that Franklin Square area and at Franklin Square Park,” Hanson said. “You’ve got restaurants, pop-up beer gardens and access to hop-on/hop-off buses for tourists.”
Plus, there are a lot of new residential developments both on the Philadelphia side — in Chinatown and Old City — and in Camden, too.
The project has been in the works for over 10 years, with the design phase starting two years ago. Its has a total budget of $30 million which includes civil, structural, mechanical and electrical improvements to bring it up to code. A new entrance building will be located at the corner of 7th and Race Street, with elevators to bring the station into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. PATCO executives said the rest of the budget will be funded by the Delaware River Port Authority.
But Tony DeSantis with the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers doubts the station will actually increase the number of people using PATCO.
“I haven’t heard a real clamoring for it,” he said.
DeSantis said the station will make commuting more convenient for tourists visiting the Constitutional Center and Independence Hall, but it won’t help many people going to the waterfront, north from Franklin Square or to Market Street.
“If you have a station there, and you don’t use it, essentially you are slowing the trains down,” he said. “If there was no existing station there, they probably wouldn’t think about this. But since the infrastructure is already there, most of it, then it would make sense to open it.”
Will Fraser, sustainable transportation outreach coordinator with the Clean Air Council, disagrees. He says the station will serve people coming to Philadelphia from New Jersey. He said it will also allow easy connections to the 47 bus that runs north and south through the city, and eventually, help reduce the city’s pollution.
“Transportation is the largest contributor to carbon dioxide, both nationwide and in the Philadelphia region. This new PATCO station will allow for riders to reduce their carbon footprint by not having to drive as much,” he said.
Construction on the station will begin next year in the fall and open by 2023. Currently, the closest PATCO station to Franklin Square is at 8th and Market.