PATCO Commuters to Endure Long Rehab Project

By Michael Hill

Daryl Hinton of Willingboro Township greets the construction news with a chuckle.

“What can you do about it? You have to grin and bear it,” he said.

Hinton is one of nearly 20,000 daily commuters who’s about to endure a long rail rehabilitation project on Port Authority Transit Corporation — or PATCO — trains across the Ben Franklin Bridge from Camden to Philadelphia.

“We suspect we’ll have far fewer failures because the whole system will be new,” said DRPA CEO John Hanson.

Hanson is the CEO of the Delaware River Port Authority. He says this work on the south track is unavoidable.

Workers will replace rails and ties and some of the circuitry put in place when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president in 1935. Phase one puts the south track off limits for two months starting next Tuesday.

The work means only one rail line across the Delaware River. Hanson says for the morning rush to Philly, trains will stack up in New Jersey and then one right after the other will run across the bridge. When all the trains get there, Hanson says it will take about 30 minutes to deadhead them all back to New Jersey and vice versa for the evening rush hour.

It means delays and overcrowded trains.

“We are enabling the line to be able to be used. If we don’t repair those tracks, we just won’t be able to run on them,” said Hanson.

“Basically there is no avoiding it. You just have to deal with it,” said Hinton.

“I think I am going to have to get here at least an hour earlier than usual,” said commuter Maria Cisneros.

PATCO’s advice? Allow extra time to commute; learn the revised schedule at www.ridepatco.org; if you can, avoid the rush hour; if you don’t, try boarding the front or rear cars because they tend to be less crowded.

“We’re very, very sorry for the inconvenience. This is not something that we chose to do,” Hanson said.

Some people are so eager for this project to get underway that before you can even finish the question “Are you looking forward to it getting…” one woman said, “I’m looking forward to it getting over.”