Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties
As regular Regional Rail customers know, the first blasts of summer heat and humidity can cause service delays when problems occur with power in the overhead wires and from our historic substations. For that reason, SEPTA has been very vocal -- with customers, stakeholders, and elected officials -- about the need for adequate capital resources to make permanent repairs and upgrades to critical infrastructure to bring the system into a state of good repair and ensure the continued physical health of the SEPTA system.
With such an extensive rail network, it may be hard to envision that just one substation - the facility at Wayne Junction, constructed at the beginning of the last century - could be so critical to the entire operation. But it is a strategic power source and a failure here has the potential to shut down 6 lines entirely and cause severely limited service capacity for the remaining 7 lines.
I say this not to frighten anyone, but to underscore the seriousness of the situation. With every incident, we face the worry and challenge of applying yet another patch to an antiquated system when we should be investing in a permanent fix: rebuilding the Wayne Junction Substation plant.
Thanks to the skills of our infrastructure maintenance crews, we've been able to get things back up and running, as happened on June 14th when we experienced a catenary problem at the 16th St Interlocking. This area receives power from our new Fairmount Substation and our "historic" Wayne Junction Substation. The Fairmount Substation was able to handle the electrical fault properly but the Wayne Junction Substation functioned poorly, increasing the level of damage at the 16th St Interlocking as well as at the substation. These incidents occurred at the height of evening service causing significant delays and inconvenience for customers. Yet, even with the most experienced Power personnel how many times can we expect a system that is over 80 years old and long past its useful life to be resuscitated?
Just recently Transportation Secretary LaHood announced that the US Department of Transportation had awarded a $12.8 million Tiger IV grant to help refurbish the Wayne Station Substation. We intend to use these resources to replace equipment that should be on display in a museum of transit history, and not powering a substation that helps deliver almost 17.5 million passenger trips a year.
SEPTA is very grateful for this funding and the agencies and elected officials who gave their support to the grant application. These resources will give us a much needed jumpstart towards the $25 million required to completely rebuild the substation so it can provide another 80+ years of service to our customers. We will continue to work with our partners and those who advocate for public transit to demonstrate the importance and value of SEPTA services for our customers and for the economic and social vitality of the region.
If you want to read more about the Wayne Junction Station and Substation improvement projects I invite you to visit the US Department of Transportation's website and the post by FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff.