SEPTA completes Route 34 trolley project on time

Septa’s Route 34 trolley service is on track and on time.

After derailing the Route 34 trolleys from the 40th Street Portal to the 61st Street Loop in order to overhaul 7,500 feet of track along the line, SEPTA put the trolleys back in service, as planned, early this month. 

Officials are pleased to announce that the project was completed on time during the typical 11- to 12-week summer construction window when school is out and more buses are available for temporary replacement service.

“It takes a lot of effort to bring these projects in on time,” SEPTA Acting Chief Engineering Officer for Track and Civil Engineering, Anthony Bohara said.

“The community was constantly asking, ‘Are we going to be finished on time?’ and we were,” said Rhonda Johnson, SEPTA community relations coordinator. 

Crews put in two weekend shifts to keep the project on time and completed the work before school resumed this month. 

During construction, temporary bus service replaced the trolley cars while crews replaced the weatherworn tracks, some of which dated back to the early 1980s. 

Of the city’s in-service trolley tracks, SEPTA officials said the tracks along Route 34 needed the most immediate attention. 

The new tracks feature insulated rubber booting on the new rail and track structures, as well as continuous welded rail, which has eliminated rail joints. These improvements, which cost just more than two million dollars in state funding, are meant to reduce sound and vibration and create an overall smoother ride. 

“They needed it badly,” said Layla Newsome, who commutes on the Route 34 trolley and uses it to get into Center City. 

“It was just a horrible ride, just going up and down, very bumpy,” she said. 

Minard Durham, who works at Fresh Deli at the corner of 48th Street and Baltimore Ave said, while he has yet to ride on the new tracks, the trolley is noticeably quieter and he does not hear it going past the store as much as he did before. 

During construction, there was some confusion with the temporary bus service.

“The shuttle bus messed everybody up,” Durham said. “They didn’t know which stop to go to.”

Newsome said she was not inconvenienced by the construction and that so far the restored trolley service has been running on time. 

With projects like these, it helps that SEPTA workers are on site during construction, Johnson said. 

“For the most part, any concerns that people have can be addressed on the spot,” she said. 

This was a standalone project, and while there are other tracks in need of repair, SEPTA officials said the Route 34 trolley track construction does not tie into any larger plans for track overhaul.

This is not the first time Route 34 has received special attention. In 2010, Transit First released an analysis of the route with suggestions, such as stop consolidation, to increase service efficiency. PlanPhilly will have an update on the implementation of those suggestions upon SEPTA’s response.

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