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Subway line proposed for North Philly's Roosevelt Blvd gains new life

Updated: Feb 2

A new effort is afoot to revive a long-debated proposal to run a subway line along Northeast Philly's Roosevelt Boulevard.

Why it matters: The corridor lacks a rapid transit option and easy access to the city's existing subway routes.

  • The 12-lane boulevard, which is lined by long stretches of residential housing, is considered one of Philly's most dangerous roadways.

Driving the news: Advocates pushing for the construction of a Roosevelt Boulevard subway line, including urbanist PAC 5th Square and the Chinese Merchants Association, say the proposal would transform the corridor into a commercial hub and advance transportation equity.

Between the lines: The idea is an old one. A Northeast subway line was first proposed in 1913 and has garnered serious consideration ever since, Billy Penn reports.

  • The conversation is renewed at a time when Pennsylvania is poised to receive billions of dollars in federal funding from the infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law last November. Some of that money will go toward improving public transportation.

Details: Under the plan, 12 new subway stations would run underneath Roosevelt Boulevard, connecting the Broad Street Line's Erie Station to the Neshaminy area in Bucks County.

  • Advocates envision an extension that connects the Market-Frankford line to the new subway route.

  • Cost and ridership estimates aren't available, Jay Arzu, a member of 5th Square, told Axios. But a 2003 study pegged the cost for the train extension at $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion.

What they're saying: The proposal isn't in SEPTA's long-term capital plans but the agency is open to discussions about improving service, SEPTA spokesperson John Golden told Axios.

  • SEPTA is already working with the city on improvements to the Roosevelt Boulevard corridor, he added.

Of note: The agency added a new bus service along the boulevard in 2017

Arzu, who's also a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, said advocates hope the proposal includes traffic safety improvements to make the area more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists and businesses.

  • "We want Roosevelt Boulevard to be a place where people can actually walk and … use the space," he said.

State Rep. Jared Solomon, who represents parts of the corridor, held a community meeting on the proposal last weekend.

  • He said it's the right time for a transformational rapid-transit project to connect the corridor with the city's downtown and suburbs, but he wasn't exactly sold on the proposed subway line.

  • "I would need to do a deep dive on all the different options," which include a monorail, elevated train, and trolley, he said.

What's next: A feasibility study is needed to determine whether the proposal is possible, which wouldn't happen for at least a year, Arzu said.

Read more here.

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