Plans for a waterfront rail line in Philadelphia took a step forward yesterday, as a Delaware River Port Authority committee approved a $6.5 million contract for environmental studies and preliminary design, expected to take about two years.
A similar $9 million contract was approved last year for a proposed rail extension in South Jersey.
The latest contract advances a $500 million light-rail project that would operate in the middle of Columbus Boulevard between Pier 70 and Girard Avenue. The route would provide service between the two casinos planned for the riverfront, Foxwoods to the south and SugarHouse to the north.
A Market Street light-rail line also would run from City Hall to the waterfront line. The waterfront trolleys could be running by 2016 if federal funding is available, DRPA officials said.
The contract approved yesterday by the DRPA operations and maintenance committee would allow the agency to pay up to $6.5 million to Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering firm that earlier was awarded a $750,000 contract to evaluate route proposals for the line.
Robert Box, general manager of the PATCO rail line, said it was beneficial to advance the environmental study and preliminary engineering as quickly as possible to seek federal funding.
"We've built a lot of momentum and a lot of support," Box said, "and it is important to keep this moving."
DRPA Chairman John Estey said federal money was crucial: "We can't fund this unless there's federal money."