PATCO to install eight elevators

New escalator stair sections wait to be installed at the PATCO Ashland Station. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
New escalator stair sections wait to be installed at the PATCO Ashland Station. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 19, 2013

More ups and downs are in store for PATCO riders.

Elevators will be installed in all PATCO commuter train stations by 2017, under a plan approved Wednesday by the board of the Delaware River Port Authority. Eight new elevators are expected to cost about $15 million.

The six PATCO stations that do not have elevators installed or under construction are Ashland, Haddonfield, Westmont, Collingswood, and City Hall in South Jersey and the 12th-13th and Locust Streets station in Center City.

Two elevators will be installed at the City Hall and 12th-13th stations, and one at each of the other four.

The DRPA board approved a $1.9 million contract for the design and construction monitoring of the elevators. The contract was awarded to Sowinski Sullivan Architects of Sparta, N.J. Eighty percent of the money will come from the Federal Transit Administration.

The elevators will make PATCO trains more accessible to elderly and handicapped riders, and will give all passengers more options than the stairs or the notoriously balky escalators at many PATCO stations.

"This has been a plan for a good number of years," said chief executive John Matheussen. "This is extremely important for our customers."

In June, PATCO escalators were out of service one-third of the time. The south escalator at the busy 8th and Market Streets station in Center City was out of service for the entire month. The Westmont escalator was shut down after numerous efforts to repair it; it awaits replacement of key parts.

And the escalator at the 12th-13th station was so badly damaged last month that it will be demolished this summer and replaced, PATCO general manager John Rink said.

In another major move for the commuter line, the DRPA board approved a $102.8 million project to rebuild tracks and the signal system over the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The price tag for the 27-month project was 47 percent higher than anticipated, so the board voted to delay six other projects in its five-year construction plan.

The overall cost of the five-year, $746 million plan will not be increased, because several other recent projects were cheaper than budgeted.

The project to overhaul that stretch of railroad, which opened in 1936, will replace tracks, ties, power and signal systems, and train-control and communication systems, make repairs to supporting structures, and apply three coats of paint.

PATCO trains will continue to operate during construction, but riders should expect some delays, Matheussen warned.

The winning bid from two North Jersey companies was far above DRPA's engineering estimate of $69.8 million and its budgeted amount of $73 million.

DRPA planners miscalculated the costs of electrical work, painting, and temporary work platforms, chief engineer Mike Venuto said.

The bid from Railroad Construction Co. of Paterson, N.J., and Iron Bridge Constructors of North Brunswick, N.J., was the lowest received. Three other bids ranged from $114 million to $144 million.

The board also approved a plan to spend $362,879 to install 35 security cameras and call boxes on the Ben Franklin Bridge walkways to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing between Philadelphia and Camden.

And the board authorized moonlighting jobs for Venuto and Police Chief John Stief.

Venuto may teach engineering courses at Rowan University. Stief is allowed to continue to help manage two Paradise Cove tanning salons owned by his family in Sewell.

Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or

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