West Chester, PA
Villanova Station Pedestrian Tunnel
In 2017 Turn – Key Tunneling, Inc. was awarded a 15’ Diameter Pedestrian Tunnel to pass beneath the active SEPTA and AMTRAK lines at the Villanova Station on the Paoil / Thorndale Regional Rail Line.
The project is designed to modernize Villanova Station and constructed in phases. Phase I improved station accessibility and includes construction of the new, wider pedestrian tunnel with access ramps and stairs, additional parking spaces, storm water management improvements, lighting, and passenger amenities. Phase II includes high-level platforms, new canopies, station building improvements, and canopy rehabilitation.
The station building was originally built in 1890 by the Pennsylvania Railroad and is within the campus of Villanova University. The eastbound and westbound platforms are ground-level and were connected by an underground non-handicapped accessible pedestrian tunnel running beneath the tracks. The update gives handicap access through a new tunnel and the new tunnel is nearly four (4) times as large as the previous brick tunnel.
A total of three tracks run through the station, two specifically for SEPTA use, a one AMTRAK line. Because of the constraints of the station footprint, this tunnel was constructed with only 5.5 feet of cover from the top of the tunnel to the bottom of the tracks, a railroad specified minimum. Settlement, and safely tunneling with this little amount of overburden are extreme challenges. On top of that, these lines remained active with trains that routinely ran in excess of 60 MPH.
“The SEPTA station is between the west campus and the main campus, so we have students who have to cross the tracks back and forth to go to their classes. There's a road over the railroad tracks and a tunnel underneath them. Most students go under because there are fewer physical steps. They take the tunnel a couple of times a day. The old tunnel is still fully operational, but it's dark, dingy and floods quite often. It's six feet wide, the new one is 15 feet, so it will be easier to use. In addition, our students frequently take the SEPTA rail into the city of Philadelphia. If they are going out at night or on weekends, the station is super convenient, so the improvements are definitely appreciated.”
Turn–Key Tunneling was part of a project team that included Road-Con, Inc as the General Contractor, and Urban Engineers as the Design Engineer. Because Turn–Key Tunneling had completed the Malvern Station Tunnel for the same owner, SEPTA, Turn–Key’s staff was consulted early and often in the design phase to ensure the project would be done efficiently and safely.