Extending the Broad Street Line subway 1.5 miles into the Navy Yard doesn't seem far.
"Unfortunately," said Byron Cromati, SEPTA’s director of strategic planning, "it's a major undertaking one way or another."
As SEPTA starts to chip away at its backlog of projects, thanks to funding from the state's $2.3 billion transportation funding bill approved late last year, Metro asks SEPTA's planner for an update on the much-discussed subway extension project.
The project, which could cost anywhere between $500 million and $1 billion, would give employees of companies based in the business park an alternative to driving or taking a shuttle bus. The business park is home to many large companies, including the U.S. headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline, a British multinational consumer healthcare company, and the corporate headquarters of clothing giant Urban Outfitters.
Cromati said a major sticking point is the large amount of employees who drive to work from New Jersey on I-95.
"It's relatively simple. Yeah, it can get congested, but it's not hard to do. Because the road network is rich here," Cromati said. "And, bluntly, a Broad Street subway extension may not help a person from New Jersey too easily."
And going back and fourth between PATCO and SEPTA can also cause issues.
If more residential housing options were added to the Navy Yard that would change the face of the discussion, he said.
"That's once you have residential literally in the Yard," he said, "and that's not there."
He said the Courtyard Marriott hotel, which recently opened on the 1000 block of Intrepid Avenue, is a great first step, but the majority of ridership can't just be employees.
"You have to have origins and destinations for any kind of rail line to make sense," Cromati said. "Rail lines are predicated on moving big numbers of people quickly and frequently. And you need to link up destinations very well. And I'm not sure that The Navy Yard is yet at that critical threshold where it's anything but an employment center making it a destination only and not an origin."
So, what's next in the planning stages?
"There will be more planning on exactly what the alignment might look like and to determine what environmental work needs to be done, because that has not been performed yet and would be a necessary next step if there was enough appetite to think very seriously politically at The Navy Yard," Cromati said.