By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Septa has announced grand plans for one of the least appealing portions of center city Philadelphia: the network of concourses that snake underground in the vicinity of City Hall.
With new state capital funding and a pending new lease with the city, Septa says it is about to embark on a major makeover of the concourse tunnels.
“That concourse network has fallen into disrepair because of age. This is a fantastic opportunity to make improvements,” says Septa deputy general manager Jeff Kneuppel, who notes that a lot needs to be done in those tunnels.
“They’re really in need of a major infusion of construction work,” Kneuppel tells KYW Newsradio. “It’s hard to make them look good when they are so old. There’s problems with water leaks and other issues. There’s really a need for a major infusion of construction work.”
Kneuppel says the work will take place over the next six years, at a cost of about $36 million. The first phase involves replacement of two escalators near City Hall, and an escalator and elevator at 8th and Market Streets.
Once that’s done, he says, work on the concourses would begin:
“Treatments on the walls, the ceilings, the floors. We would also certainly want to do lighting. (Security) cameras are also a thing I think people would feel better about. Certainly signage. It’s not always easy to figure out where you’re going, down in that network of tunnels around City Hall.”
But Kneuppel has even grander dreams: he wants the concourses to be far more than simply tunnels to get from one place to another, underground.
“There’s a lot of potential opportunities to make that something special,” he says. “It’s a very big area. And, hopefully, we could even turn it into somewhat of an underground park.”
The Septa board is set to cast a final vote on its new 30-year lease with the city at a meeting next week. That lease allows the transit agency to control maintenance of the concourse network, a task that the city currently farms out to the Center City District.