Track Work Means Summer of Discontent for PATCO Riders

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Nathaniel Hamilton | NewsWorks.org
    PATCO is expecting a $103 million overhaul of the railroad lines that take commuters across the Ben Franklin Bridge.

    PATCO riders are bracing themselves for a summer construction project that will pack trains, make riders wait longer and likely cause a lot of headaches.

    For weeks, construction on the tracks running over the Ben Franklin Bridge has caused delays on Friday afternoons and weekends.

    Starting in early June, though, things are going to get a bit more hectic on the rails that connect South Jersey with Philadelphia.

    Track construction is will become a 24/7 operation. And, for more than three months, trains will run on one track instead of two.

    In a series of community meetings that wrapped up this week, PATCO officials told riders to expect 30-minute delays plus crowding during rush hour.

    "The tracks and associated circuitry with the tracks going across the Ben Franklin Bridge are at the end of their useful life so the tracks need to be replaced as well as the circuitry so that we can continue to use the line," said John Hanson, PATCO president.

    PATCO rider Joseph Russell isn't fretting much about the looming construction. He sees it as the cost of doing business.

    And so, he'll just grin and bear the delays and sardine-can commutes.

    "There's no guarantee even if you're driving a car that things are going to be great," said Russell. "There's traffic every day coming home from work. So the fact that a few days on the train might not be the best, the most convenient, that's fine.

    Fellow PATCO rider Larry Davis, though, worries about what will happen if a train car breaks down as one did this year during a Friday night rush hour.

    "If something like that does happen when there is only one train going over the bridge, then no trains are going to go over the bridge and it's going to shut everything down," said Davis.

    If a breakdown occurs on the bridge, Hanson said agency operators will try to get the train to the nearest platform or wait for another one to push it there.

    The $103 million project is expected wrap up by the middle of 2016.