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May 27, 2017

SEPTA receives millions for Media-Elwyn extension, safety system

The $5.8 million federal grant will support PTC for planned Media-Elwyn extension

Transportation SEPTA
02262016_SEPTA_regional_rail_train_generic_TC Thom Carroll, File/PhillyVoice

SEPTA Regional Rail train.

SEPTA is set to receive $5.8 million in federal funds for a safety system implemented on its Regional Rail lines after a deadly 2015 Amtrack crash in Port Richmond.

The transportation authority is set to use the funds, announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transporation, toward enhancing its existing Positive Train Control system and to implement the system in a planned extension of the Media-Elwyn Line in Delaware County.

The grant was funded through a program authorized by the Fixing America's Surface Transporation Act in 2015, according to a press release from Republican Congressman Pat Meehan, who represents parts of Delaware County.

“Passenger safety is the top priority of any transit system, and investments into state-of-the art safety technologies can reduce accidents and make our families’ commutes to work and school safer,” Meehan said in a press release on the grant.

PTC automatically stops or slows a train before human error can cause an accident. The stretch of track between Philadelphia and New York City did not yet have the system when Amtrak 188 derailed on a sharp curve at Frankford Junction in May 2015, killing eight and injuring more than 200 passengers.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, passed by Congress that year, mandated the system to be installed on all passenger and freight railroads in the country by Dec. 31, 2015.

Amtrak activated the system between the two cities in December 2015, and SEPTA had each of its 13 Regional Rail lines operating under the system by January 2017.

The planned project to extend the line three miles south from its end point at Elwyn to Wawa, the unincorporated community along Route 1 that houses Wawa's corporate offices, has been knocked around at SEPTA for more than a decade.

Preliminary work to stabilize embankments on sections of the line was completed in 2010, and the transit authority hopes to start work on the $150 million project next summer and complete it in the summer of 2020.

The job will include new retaining walls and restored track and signals.

SEPTA provided local rail service to West Chester on the line until the 1980s, when it terminated service past Elwyn.