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Protesters on March 23 carried a number of signs slamming the city and SEPTA for closing Somerset station. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.
Protesters on March 23 carried a number of signs slamming the city and SEPTA for closing Somerset station. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.

SEPTA to reopen Somerset Station after a two-week closure with new safety and relief measures

The closure was met with immense backlash from community members, who marched up Kensington Ave. two days after it closed on March 23.

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After just a one-week notice to surrounding residents, the Somerset stop on the Market-Frankford El was temporarily closed to repair two elevators left inoperable by urine and needles.

For many residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the station, its closure signified a culmination of decades of disinvestment by the city within the community, and they rallied up Kensington Ave. on March 23 to demand action and solution. At the time, there was no timetable on when the vital lifeline to the community would reopen.

A little more than a week later, SEPTA announced a concrete reopening date of April 5, two weeks after Somerset station was closed.

“By working around the clock, crews have made tremendous progress with maintenance and repairs,” said SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards in a press release announcing the reopening.

But for the community, it’s not as simple as just reopening the station to be forgotten again. 

A major demand made at the rally on March 23 was for the community to be part of the reopening and have input regarding its safety and available resources going forward.

The elevators have yet to be repaired, but the station is reopening with enhanced lighting, new signage, new painting and after a much-needed deep clean, according to Richards.

SEPTA transit officers will also be assigned to the station throughout the service day, and a new street-level police booth will be installed. 

The officers present will also work hand-in-hand with social outreach specialists to provide support with substance abuse counseling and behavioral health.

Similar clean up, support and safety measures have been implemented at the nearby Allegheny station and SEPTA said in its press release that it hopes to do the same at other stations with similar challenges.

Sixty more security guards have also been added to the Market-Frankford line as a whole.

In response, Councilmember María Quiñones-Sánchez, who has been a major supporter of the residents in the neighborhood, called the reopening a "victory" for them.

"This is the kind of partnership required to make real progress on difficult issues," she said. 

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.

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