Despite continued financial losses, the SEPTA board approved a plan to use $40 million of the federal coronavirus relief money to free up funds to go toward the King of Prussia Rail Project.
The approximately $2 billion rail line would connect King of Prussia to University City and Center City, creating a trifecta of the largest employment hubs in the region. The board also approved a five-year strategic plan for 2021 through 2026 that lists the KOP rail as one of its five projects that would speed up economic growth in the region by 50%.
“Connecting our employment centers with employment opportunities is huge for anyone who can access our system to get good-paying jobs,” said SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards.
SEPTA currently provides direct access to King of Prussia with bus routes that travel on the Schuylkill Expressway, while the Norristown High Speed Line runs mostly alongside the east side of the King of Prussia border. The rail project would build a four-mile track extension into the Montgomery County community, giving KOP riders direct access to Norristown Transportation Center or 69th Street Transportation Center, where they can connect to the Market-Frankford Line. Authority officials expect KOP rail will add an average of more than 9,700 weekday riders. Prior to the pandemic, SEPTA reported the high-speed line carried 2.5 million annual trips.
King of Prussia District, a nonprofit organization that oversees economic growth in the area, released an annual report last year that boasted major growth. The report highlighted the completion of new construction and new residential development filling up with 83% occupancy. The organization reported nearly 62,000 people employed at more than 4,000 companies, representing a 17% increase since 2010.
The pandemic slowed some of KOP’s progress, though. For example, Eric Goldstein, executive director of King of Prussia District said commercial occupancy has remained steady, but companies are mostly operating from home, and the loss of daily foot traffic is hurting restaurants and retailers. He said the region needs to plan for recovery.