Construction on the ramp connecting Magill Walk to the tunnel under the SEPTA tracks has been completed for the time being. Additional work to replace broken sections of pavement is scheduled for this fall and is expected to be minimally disruptive. College officials expect that the current maintenance work will end up being a temporary measure while funding for more substantial renovations is sorted out.
According to Jeff Jabco, Director of Grounds who has been the point person for the project, “[the schedule] has come along fine as we’ve had good weather.”
In addition to the work that has already been completed, repairs are being done on the steps that lead to the tunnel. Jabco expects those repairs should be done within a week to tendays. The ramp will be closed for another week later in the fall to replace broken concrete blocks.
Beyond this general maintenance, Jabco expects that there may be more substantial renovations in the future. “We’ve been talking to [SEPTA] for about the past year and a half. They’re trying to work it into their long-range plan and their funding for the future.” According to Jabco, SEPTA plans to make the tunnel under the tracks at the end of the Magill Walk compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s accessibility standards. The current ADA-compliant path from campus to the Philadelphia inbound platform runs through the tunnel south of Sharples Dining Hall and through the parking lot behind the Inn at Swarthmore.
In order to make the tunnel wheelchair accessible, the college would have to extend the length of the ramp. This would require a considerable amount of digging, and either adding curves to the ramp or starting the ramp further up Magill Walk. There would be additional work done on college property that falls within SEPTA’s right of way — the portion of the college’s property within SEPTA’s eminent domain. In total, Jabco expects that it “would probably be a five- to six-month project.”
This kind of project would be in line with renovations that SEPTA has done at other stations to increase accessibility. However, SEPTA has recently faced threats to their funding. According to Jabco, this has directly caused the Swarthmore project to be delayed.
In 2007, SEPTA began receiving $450 million a year from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. On March 15th, 2018 a group comprising of teamsters unions and driving advocates sued the Turnpike Commission over these payments. Their suit alleged that it was illegal to use tolls to pay for public transportation. Judge Yvette Kane of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed the case on April 4th, 2019. The plaintiffs appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit where the previous dismissal was upheld on August 13th, 2019.
Despite the dismissal of the suit, Jabco doesn’t expect action in the near future. “We would love if it we’re in the next two to three years, but I’m not holding my breath … It’s all dependent on state and federal funding.”