SEPTA to expand solar-powered regional rail signals

Mike DeNardo
November 17, 2019 - 10:20 am
SEPTA regional rail with solar-powered signal

Courtesy of SEPTA

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — SEPTA announced plans to expand its solar-powered signals to three more regional rail lines next year.

Solar panels have provided backup electricity for train signals on the Chestnut Hill West line for the past year.

"Having the signal power reliable allows our train system to be reliable," said Erik Johanson, SEPTA's director of innovation. He added power to signals on that line has gone uninterrupted, even in severe weather. If power is interrupted by say, a downed tree limb, the signals that tell engineers when it's safe to change tracks fail, resulting in delays. 

"Not to have a single signal power failure during that time, something that used to happen monthly, is pretty significant," he said. 

Rider Nicole Higgins uses the Chestnut Hill West line daily. "For me, it's always on time," she said. "The only time if it's late, it's weather-related."

Next year, SEPTA plans to install solar panels along the Warminster, West Trenton and Doylestown lines, using a $16 million federal grant.

KYW Newsradio waited at the Chestnut Hill West station to talk to Johanson about this. Ironically, his train was late because of signal problems. But he pointed out, the Chestnut Hill West signals were not to blame—the issue was on the other side of the system at Wayne Junction. 

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