Posted on Sun, Jul. 17, 2011
At 30th St. Station, a plan for gateway to city
By Paul Nussbaum
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Amtrak is getting ready to create a master plan for 30th Street Station, hoping to make the neoclassical landmark a more welcoming gateway to both West Philadelphia and Center City.
The 78-year-old train station serves more than seven million Amtrak, SEPTA, and NJ Transit passengers a year, but it's isolated by a river, two expressways, a cordon of busy streets, and a wasteland of parking lots.
For pedestrians, the area around the station is "about as inhospitable as the surface of another planet," said Bob Francis, vice president for university facilities at Drexel University.
Many changes are already in the works.
Drexel, intent on filling the void between its campus and the station, last month spent $21.8 million for 3.6 acres of parking lots on the western doorstep of the station for future university housing, academic buildings, or commercial space.
And on the south side of the station, construction crews for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are building a 55-foot-wide pedestrian plaza with lights and granite benches as the foundation of a Station Square aimed at transforming that block-long desert into an oasis. The plaza will be mirrored by another one across Market Street, in front of the old 30th Street Post Office building, which now houses the IRS.
Amtrak is working with PennDot, Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania, city officials, SEPTA, and other groups as it prepares to draw up the master plan. The agency is still waiting on funding to proceed, and the plan could take a year or more to complete.