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Philadelphia’s $500M dream

Next major infrastructure improvement would connect some 10,000 workers at Navy Yard industrial complex to Broad Street subway.

Geographically, it's less than 2 miles from the SEPTA subway station at Broad and Pattison to the Navy Yard, but for Madeline Edwards it might as well be across town.

"My roommate usually drives me [to work], but if I'm coming from the Northern Liberties area it takes like an hour," the 25-year-old designer for Urban Outfitters said of her commute on public transportation.

Next month, the Navy Yard is expected to reach a milestone of 10,000 people who work in the hub as GlaxoSmithKline begins relocating employees to its new facility in the complex. While the hub is blossoming as an office campus, one thing that remains uncertain is the role of mass transit. Earlier this month, the Navy Yard began a free shuttle service for employees that includes a loop from Broad and Pattison and express service from Center City. The shuttle replaced SEPTA's Route 71 bus, which was eliminated because of low ridership.

"We felt that the best way to increase ridership and usage of mass transit was to really establish this privately-run service that includes the two services," said Will Agate, vice president for Navy Yard management and development at Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., a citywide economic development corporation.

SEPTA said it wants to further study plans to extend the Broad Street Subway to the Navy Yard, a project that is estimated to cost $500 million.

"I would say that SEPTA's really interested in looking at this," said Byron Comati, SEPTA's director of strategic planning. "You've got employment numbers that keep growing down there in the yard, you've got a hotel coming in, which is a huge first."

Feds’ input sought

SEPTA and the city have applied for a federal grant for alternative analysis that would provide more detail about extending the Broad Street Subway.

While SEPTA wants to further study the project, the transit agency has not identified a way to pay for it. SEPTA’s entire capital budget for the fiscal year is $303 million and more than a dozen projects have been deferred due to lack of funding.

But Byron Comati, SEPTA’s director of strategic planning, said the authority could provide additional bus service in lieu of the subway expansion.

“It’s a reasonably strong proposition that SEPTA would have more advanced bus service into the yard,” he said. “That could be very easily put into place and complement and pick up another sector that [is not] currently served by very discretionary types of shuttles.”

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