SEPTA to take over maintenance of Center City concourses, stations

Commuters pass a water leak on the SEPTA concourse at Eighth and Market Streets. (MICHAEL BRYANT /Staff Photographer)

Ending decades of divided control of the subterranean realm beneath Center City, SEPTA soon will be in charge of cleaning, maintaining, and repairing almost everything under the streets.

That should mean improved cleanliness, lighting, and safety as SEPTA uses new state funding to upgrade the long-neglected passageways, agency officials said Thursday.

A new 30-year lease with the city gives SEPTA responsibility for the 3.5 miles of city-owned concourses along Market Street from Eighth to 18th Streets and south to the Walnut-Locust subway station, as well as the elevators and escalators that serve the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines.

A committee of the SEPTA board reviewed the lease Thursday, and the full board is expected to approve it and two 15-year optional extensions next week. City Council has already approved the lease.

The transit agency will also take charge of cleaning the concourse areas, which since 2007 have been cleaned by the Center City District. SEPTA will not be responsible for cleaning or maintaining the PATCO stations in Center City, but PATCO last year hired SEPTA to maintain the escalators and elevators at its stations.

SEPTA officials said they would spend $1.4 million on the concourses this year, with millions more planned for repairing leaks, improving lighting, upgrading electrical systems, and adding signage.

And SEPTA will spend $7 million to replace three escalators and an elevator at 15th Street and Eighth Street.

The escalators will be out of service for about nine months, starting late this year or early next year, as the replacements are installed, SEPTA deputy general manager Jeffrey Knueppel said.

Upgrades to the concourses will be part of SEPTA's long-range capital improvements, as the agency plans to spend nearly $600 million a year over the next 12 years repairing and improving its dilapidated infrastructure.

The spending was made possible by a new state transportation-funding law passed late last year by the legislature.

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