SEPTA cleared to spend $200 million on around 70 properties to make way for King of Prussia Rail

SEPTA needs real estate in Upper Merion, in large part, to pave the way for the $1.8 billion King of Prussia Rail project – and it’s about to embark on a buying spree.

On Thursday, the agency’s board authorized spending of up to $200 million to purchase about 70 properties and secure easements for the construction and operation of the a four-mile rail spur, an extension of the existing Norristown high-speed line.

“Unfortunately, there was no magic way that would not require the acquisition of any real estate in the dense King of Prussia area,” Hooven said.

The real estate includes a mix of residential, industrial and commercial properties, although planners have worked hard to minimize the number of homes affected, officials said.

Among the properties targeted: an Upper Merion Fire Company fire station, home to the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company, and an adjacent 9/11 memorial.

The rails would be 90% elevated, so in many cases SEPTA would only need to acquire small pieces from a property for the supports. He also needs to get air rights over the railroad, including from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority for permission to build two spans over I-276, Hooven said.

“The whole thing is a long bridge,” she said.

Temporary easements, or access to an owner’s property, will also be required to organize construction equipment and materials, such as cranes and steel beams, during construction of the line and its five resorts.

SEPTA must follow a prescribed process for buying a property this includes researching titles, obtaining independent appraisals and negotiating the price with owners.

“It’s property by property,” Hooven said. “People have to be met individually.”

If a deal cannot be reached, SEPTA would have the right to take the property by eminent domain, which allows government agencies to pay fair market value for properties needed for public purposes.

SEPTA’s goal is to have everything acquired by the end of 2024, so that construction can begin as soon as 2025.