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Downtown Center City Philadelphia

Track Assignments

Line Destination of


30Th Street




Market East


R1 Airport 5-6 3B 3A
R1 Glenside 1-2 2A 2A
R2 Newark, DE 5-6 3A(5A/B,6AB) 3A
R2 Warminster 5-6 2A 2A
R3 Media Elwyn 5-6 3A 3A
R3 West Trenton, NJ 5-6 2A 2A
R5 Doylestown 1 1B 1B
R5 Thorndale 4 4B 4A
R6 Cynwyd

(pronounced Kin-Wood)

R6 Norristown 5-6 1A 1A
R7 Chestnut Hill East 2 2B 2B
R7 Trenton 3-4 4A (5A) 4A
R8 Chestnut Hill West 3-4 3B 3A
R8 Fox Chase 2 1B 1B

Market East Station and Suburban Station each have two distinct sections referred to as A and B. Trains stop in their assigned location


Market East Station

The regional rail station has four tracks with diagonal colorful mosaics and skylights giving a nice airy feel. Each track has two boarding locations identified as Section A and Section B but trains can arrive on any track in any direction. It has connections to the Convention Center, the Market Frankford Line, PATCO and the Ridge Spur plus the underground concourse.

By Harry Kyriakodis

The two electrified rail networks (Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Railroad) were not operationally integrated until completion of the Commuter Rail Tunnel in late 1984.

Officially known as the Center City Commuter Connection (CCCC), the 1.7-mile long tunnel essentially connected Suburban Station and Reading Terminal. Both of these were inefficient stub-end terminals that had formerly competed for commuter traffic. The CCCC enabled the through-routing of commuter trains and eliminated capacity limitations and operational difficulties imposed by stub end terminal designs. This was a first for any U.S. city.

The project was first proposed in 1958 by R. Damon Childs, a planner with the Philadelphia Planning Commission. At first, city planner Edmund Bacon was doubtful about the tunnel, but he incorporated it into his 1960 Comprehensive Plan for the city's future development once he grasped the project's viability and usefulness. Yet the widely-maligned tunnel was considered for years to be a dream that would not come to pass. Eventually, however, it was realized that such a tunnel would greatly improve the Regional Rail system's performance by allowing Philadelphia's two original rail networks to work together.

Ground was finally broken on June 22, 1978, during Mayor Frank Rizzo's administration. The $330 million project received 80 percent of its funding from the Urban Mass Transit Administration, now the Federal Transit Administration.

The CCCC is a reinforced concrete box tunnel of cut-and-cover construction. Its design and construction were very challenging, as the tunnel weaves both above and below pre-existing subway lines. Also, several historic and high-rise buildings along the route required a great amount of underpinning. The 14-story City Hall Annex (built in 1926; now the Marriott Courtyard Hotel) needed special treatment, since one track of the tunnel box passes directly under the building's support columns along Filbert Street.

The Masonic Temple, completed in 1873, required an even stronger underpinning method when cracks appeared in its ornate interior plaster. To keep train noise and vibration from disturbing downtown buildings and their occupants, the subway's tracks use continuously-welded rails on specially cushioned concrete ties. Track level insulation and acoustic panels between the four tracks further deaden train noise. The concrete tunnel structure itself is isolated from adjacent structures by a two-inch layer of cork. In addition, complex construction scheduling was required to maintain vehicle, pedestrian and rail traffic at street level and in the multiple levels of subways and pedestrian concourses. And there was a monumental relocation of utilities, all of which had to be kept in service without disruption.

The Commuter Rail Tunnel actually lengthened the existing five-block subway built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the late 1920s from Suburban station towards 30th Street Station. Thus, the entire rail tunnel is almost 2.5 miles long, right through the heart of Center City Philadelphia.

Originally Suburban Station's eight tracks ended at a concrete wall near 15th Street. The CCCC extended four of the station's tracks—two in each direction—eastward. The tunnel project also included removing two of Suburban Station's original tracks. In their place, the two island platforms serving the CCCC's through-tracks were widened to about double their previous width. The rarely used Track 0, a stub, shares a platform with the southernmost Track 1, and there are three stub tracks north of the four through-tracks. Several trains can be seen on the stubs during mid-days. Interestingly, although the station's four through tracks are on the south side, Suburban Station was originally designed so that its two northernmost tracks could be extended east towards a proposed tunnel under the Delaware River to connect to Pennsylvania Railroad lines out of Camden, New Jersey. This was never done.

Leaving Suburban Station, the tracks head east through a small interlocking area and pass over the Broad Street Subway. Even though this north-south line was designed to allow a future subway above it north of City Hall, clearances were barely adequate for the Commuter Rail Tunnel. A 20-foot wide section of subway roof was demolished and a new one built while maintaining Broad Street Subway service on at least two tracks. Furthermore, a 400-foot length of SEPTA Subway-Surface trolley line parallel to the new tunnel was moved 16 feet south. A new westbound 15th Street trolley stop was also built, all while keeping service running.

Next is Market East Station, a $75 million transportation Center completed in 1984. The Gallery's basement level adjoins Market East Station's mezzanine. In fact, this level of the Gallery extends the city's underground pedestrian concourse network all the way to 8th Street.

It is thus possible to walk entirely underground in downtown Philadelphia from 19th Street to 8th Street! The nearby intersection of 8th and Market Streets is a key transportation hub, with access to stations for the Market Street Subway, the Broad Street Spur/Ridge Avenue Subway, and the PATCO Hi-Speed line.

The Reading Company built One Reading Center at 11th and Market Streets contemporaneously with the Commuter Rail Tunnel. This was the Reading Company's first substantial effort in real estate development after quitting the railroad business and emerging from bankruptcy on January 1, 1981. Now known as the Aramark Tower, the handsome edifice was completed in 1984 and was the first major office high-rise constructed on east Market Street in fifty years. The building has 31 office floors above two retail levels and incorporates special curved corners and stepped terraces on the exterior. Each of its dark reflective glass façades was designed to respond to neighboring buildings in a unique fashion. The tower's 11-story glass-enclosed lobby atrium contains an art deco marble lobby, a reflecting pool and a sculpture garden.

Reading Terminal's headhouse is adjacent to the Aramark Tower. When Market East Station opened, it effectively replaced the old terminal's function. The CCCC passes under the near-center of the Reading Terminal trainshed, far below its elevation and perpendicular to it. Special challenges arose here during the tunnel's construction, since full commuter train service had to be maintained inside the shed while extensive underpinning was done below. The historic trainshed is now part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which was constructed nearby (between Arch and Race Streets from 11th to 13th Streets) in the early 1990s. SEPTA headquarters are across the street from Reading Terminal, at 1234 Market Street, next to the PSFS Building (now a Loews Hotel). And the Philadelphia Greyhound bus terminal is at 10th and Filbert Streets, very close to Market East Station.

Commuter Rail Tunnel construction very much disrupted Chinatown, under which the subway curves north. The city and project engineers worked closely with local residents and business owners to solve business disruption, noise, dust, parking and traffic flow problems. In addition, the 9th and Vine Street station of the Broad Street Spur/Ridge Avenue Subway lay directly in the path of the tunnel and had to be demolished. A replacement station was built near 8th and Race Streets as that line's Chinatown stop. The lowest point of the CCCC is under this station, about twenty feet below sea level. The tunnel then passes under the Vine Street Expressway near this spot. On the northern side of the expressway, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation constructed a fine village of mixed-income residences on the undesirable land alongside the expressway from 8th to 9th Streets, with parking and green space over the CCCC. This was a creative way to comply with regulations prohibiting heavy construction on land above a subway.

Proceeding north, the tunnel rises on a steep 2.8 percent grade as it ends at the Green Street portal. A few blocks later, the tracks connect on a direct high-speed alignment to the old elevated Reading main line—the 9th Street Branch—that used to take trains into Reading Terminal .

The southern part of this viaduct from Vine Street to the Pennsylvania Convention Center was torn down in the early 1990s since it was no longer needed after the CCCC's completion.


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