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Speaker Spotlight: Economy League report shows transit expansion to King of Prussia would yield econ

A proposed transit extension to King of Prussia promises to stimulate billions of dollars in additional economic activity in our region and further strengthen one of the Delaware Valley’s largest job centers, according to a new report issued by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.

The Economy League presented its findings at a recent meeting of the Development Workshop, believing that the project would advance our organization’s agenda of stimulating development and promoting growth in and around Philadelphia.

SEPTA asked the Economy League to develop the report, which is informing the transit agency’s planning process. The current proposal envisions extending the Norristown High Speed Line four miles into the heart of King of Prussia, providing new service to the King of Prussia Mall and to a large nearby office park.

This extension, according to the Economy League and an analysis conducted by Econsult Solutions, would increase ridership on the line by up to 81 percent over current levels and lead to a decrease of 18 million vehicle miles traveled by area automobiles each year – reducing congestion, improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It would also cut travel time from Center City to King of Prussia by a half hour or more, easing the commutes of the 8,000 Philadelphia residents who currently work in King of Prussia – especially those in service-sector and retail jobs who rely on SEPTA’s current bus service to travel to and from work.

This transit extension would also be the catalyst to jumpstart the further expansion of the Philadelphia region’s largest suburban employment center and that it would complement existing plans by area businesses to reshape the business park as a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use downtown destination, the Economy League says.

Businesses at King of Prussia currently employ 50,000 people. And the Mall, one of the nation’s largest, is responsible for $1 billion in annual consumer spending.

A new transit line to the area would build further on these impressive numbers. The construction process alone would generate up to $1.3 billion in economic activity.

And once completed, it could result in nearly $950 million of additional economic development over a 20-year period. If Upper Merion Township, where King of Prussia is located, institutes new, denser zoning rules to take advantage of the expanded transit access, the line could also spark the development of an additional 4 million square feet of real estate over the same time period.

Yet much work remains before this project can be made a reality. SEPTA is finalizing an analysis that will determine which route this proposed line would take. It is also seeking a federal grant that could cover up to half of its projected $1 billion cost.

If successful, SEPTA and regional leaders would have to raise an additional $500 million in local funds to complete the financing package.

A push by the business community was crucial to getting a landmark transportation funding bill signed in 2013 that provided historic levels of funding to bring our transportation infrastructure to a state of good repair.

This Economy League report demonstrates that investments in our infrastructure pay economic dividends.

Though there are many challenges ahead for this project, continued support by business leaders will be crucial to marshalling the political will to continue the work of building a transportation network that allows our region to successfully compete on the world stage.

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