Verizon to provide underground cell service for PATCO

Posted: July 18, 2014

Some PATCO train riders will be able to use cellphones in underground stations and tunnels later this year, following approval Wednesday by the PATCO board of a contract to install cellular transmission equipment.

The nearly $300,000 contract with Verizon Wireless initially will allow only Verizon customers to connect. But AT&T has expressed interest in installing transmission equipment for its customers and those of other cellphone carriers, said John Rink, general manager of PATCO.

PATCO riders have long complained about the inability to use their mobile phones underground, especially during train breakdowns or other incidents.

The Verizon system is expected to be operational by October or November, Rink said. The first installations will be in PATCO's four Philadelphia stations.

Verizon will pay PATCO $299,610 for five years, with four five-year options to extend the contract. No agreement has been reached with AT&T on an installation schedule or payments to PATCO, Rink said.

The Delaware River Port Authority, PATCO's parent corporation, held a rare evening board session Wednesday in the Collingswood Senior Community Center. In recent years, the board has held several evening meetings in South Jersey and Philadelphia to make it easier for interested residents to attend.

Philadelphia union leader John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, who represents Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on the board, demanded a full account of payments to the law firm that represents the board in a federal grand jury investigation of economic-development spending.

"We need to understand why we're paying a quarter of a million dollars to Duane Morris this month, OK?" Dougherty said. Duane Morris is the Pennsylvania counsel for the bistate port authority and represents the agency in the federal probe.

Dougherty wanted to know who was authorized to talk to Michael Mustokoff, lead attorney for Duane Morris in the federal investigation, and he asked for a board meeting "to find out what the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are paying for."

Danielle McNichol, general counsel for the port authority, said Duane Morris' bill includes "10 to 15 different matters," including the federal probe.

Pennsylvania board member William Sasso, chairman of the Philadelphia law firm of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, told Dougherty "your concerns mirror mine," and said the authority may need to create a legal committee to monitor the billings and inform the board.

The board on Wednesday also approved the promotion of James White to chief financial officer, with an annual salary of $165,000. White, the agency's finance director, had been acting CFO since his predecessor, John Hanson, was promoted in January to chief executive officer, following the resignation of John Matheussen.

The first of PATCO's long-awaited refurbished cars are expected to be in service by late August, chief engineer Michael Venuto said Wednesday.

The cars, which are a year behind schedule, still have glitches with their communications software and with the heating and air-conditioning systems, Venuto said.

The entire fleet of 120 PATCO cars is being refurbished, 20 cars at a time, by French train-builder Alstom Transport Inc. at a factory in Hornell, N.Y., in a $194 million project.

In addition to the eight pilot cars now being tested at Lindenwold, four others are ready to be shipped to PATCO.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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