Rehabbing the Rails

by Stewart D. Winn, Jr., Vice-Pres.; O'Brien-Kreitzberg & Assoc., Inc., Philadelphia, PA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 9, Pg. 54-57

Document Type: Feature article


In 1984, during a routine bridge inspection, a worker detected deterioration under the south abutment of a bridge that carried the main line of Philadelphia's commuter railroad. The bridge was about to fail. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) shut down the railroad for four weeks to replace two of the bridge spans with earth fill. At the same time, SEPTA surveyed the entire line (which runs from Philadelphia's Center City to the suburbs) and found that 25 bridges were reaching the end of their service life. The line's former owners, now bankrupt, had deferred years of heavy maintenance. Extensive renovation or replacement of all bridges, track and equipment was necessary. After several years of planning, construction on Railworks, a $354 million overhaul of the line, began last spring. SEPTA operates all transit service in the Philadelphia area, providing bus, light rail and heavy commuter rail service using the facilities of several formerly privately owned railroads.

Subject Headings: Railroad bridges | Bridge abutments | Rehabilitation | Rail transportation | Commute | Light rail transit | Inspection | Labor | Pennsylvania | United States | Philadelphia

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