Welcome to “What ever happened with,” Billy Penn’s ongoing series that will look at older stories that may have been forgotten about or otherwise not followed up on. Whether it’s a delayed development project or an unsolved murder mystery, “What ever happened with” strives to tell you what’s up with that Philly thing you might have forgotten about.
It’s been more than seven months since federal lawmakers voted to change the name of 30th Street Station to recognize the late Congressman William H. Gray III. But since that time, nothing has been placed in the station to honor that — not a plaque, not a sign, not a portrait — and no transportation companies have changed the way they refer to the station.
Sure, William H. Gray III 30th Street Station is a mouthful. But city officials and SEPTA had no problem promptly renaming the Market East Station to the Jefferson Station last fall, and that name is now used in all materials and it’s said over the speaker system every time your train pulls up to the station at 11th and Market Streets.
Officials say the late Congressman Gray will be honored at 30th Street Station in time, and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah — the lawmaker who originally introduced a bill to change the name — said the physical name designation will happen this year. There’s a local committee working to find the best way to honor Williams at the station, Hidden City reported in January.
Fattah came up with the idea to change the name of the station last year, as it was the late congressman who secured millions of dollars worth of funding for the Philadelphia transportation hub when it was falling apart in the 1980s and 90s. Gray, a Baptist minister, was the first African American to chair the House Budget Committee and serve as majority whip, and worked to secure more aid for Africa while opposing South Africa during apartheid. Gray died in July 2013.
Ally Freeman, Fattah’s spokeswoman, said Fattah’s office is “currently engaged in the same process which was used in the naming of the Wilmington train station after Vice President Joe Biden.” In the case of Wilmington, Del., the station was renamed Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Station but is still called Wilmington Station for operational and logistical purposes.
SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams cited the same precedent as the reason why SEPTA won’t be calling 30th Street the William H. Gray III 30th Street Station anytime soon. And the difference between this case and the Market East case? Money.
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals inked a $4 million deal with SEPTA for a five-year plan to put the Jefferson name on the station. According to The Inquirer, SEPTA will keep 85 percent of that money, and the other 15 percent will go to a New York-based advertising agency. Jefferson will re-evaluate at the end of five years if it wants to continue paying for the program.
In the case of 30th Street Station, even though the name change is official in the eyes of the law, agencies like SEPTA, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit are still free to call it the shortened name for logistical and operational purposes. Williams, of SEPTA, said the agency has no plans to call it the full name in the future, but would consider following Amtrak’s lead if it changed the name of the station in its materials.
Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said from an Amtrak operations and signage perspective, the station will be referred to as 30th Street Station, though its official name will be William H. Gray III 30th Street Station. She added that Amtrak will follow the protocol that was used in Wilmington to keep the name for day-to-day operations short.
This story has been updated to reflect that Fattah said the renaming would take place this year.