SEPTA Launches ‘Blitz,' Closes Trolley Tunnel

SEPTA is looking to overhaul a major Center City line while inconveniencing the fewest commuters.

But that doesn’t mean thousands of commuters won’t have to change their plans for a couple weeks.

The transportation agency will close the Center City trolley line between 40th and Market Streets in University City to 13th Street in the heart of Center City for 17 days starting Friday night after 9.

The “Trolley Tunnel Blitz” campaign is intended to improve and fix worn overhead wiring, 30-year-old tracks and outdated stations. According to SEPTA, crews will work nonstop to improve safety while increasing reliability of the Route 10, 11, 13, 34 and 36 trains.

More than 660 trolleys carry about 40,000 riders daily along the underground tunnel.

During the construction period, which is scheduled to wrap up in time for the morning rush on Monday, Aug. 18, commuters riding the trolley in from West Philadelphia will need to hop off at 40th and Market to pick up the Market-Frankford subway.

Removing existing concrete surfaces, replacing concrete-embedded track switches, replacing 24,000 feet of worn overhead wires and putting down more than 14,000 feet of new rails are among the major work needed to be done by a crew of about 225 workers. They will also paint stations.

SEPTA officials said they choose to do the work now because early August is when they see the fewest commuters. Also, by starting the work on a weekend, they are only inconveniencing commuters during 10 weekdays.

"This 'blitz' concept is used in the transportation industry because it allows organizations to maximize productivity during improvements projects while minimizing the period of inconvenience to passengers and communities we serve. This is especially true when there is a single track operation, like our trolley tunnel," said SEPTA Deputy General Manager Jeff Knueppel. "Because the Center City tunnel is used 24 hours a day and is a five-mile, single track operation, it is difficult for our crews to get productive work windows. Without this blitz and 17-day closure, we'd have months of nighttime and weekend shutdowns to complete all of the projects."

SEPTA didn't reveal the total cost of the project, which is being funded by Pennsylvania Act 89.

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