Friday, March 16, 2012

SEPTA proposed FY2012 budget suspends improvement projects

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For the third straight year, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority expects to defer critical improvement projects due to funding cuts, according to the authority's Fiscal Year 2013 Capital Budget proposal.

The $303 million spending plan reflects a 25 percent reduction compared to the funding levels of three years ago and will leave SEPTA unable to move forward on dozens of improvement projects it says are vital to the short- and long-term health of the transit system.

The capital funds available for Fiscal Year 2013, which covers the 12-month period from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, will go largely toward mandates such as Regional Rail signal system upgrades and other safety improvements. The authority must also set aside funds for equipment overhauls and the purchase of new buses and paratransit vehicles to replace those that are being removed from service.

Without additional funding, much-needed upgrades, from critical overhauls to electrical substations to bridge repairs and station renovations, are pushed back indefinitely.

In recent years, SEPTA has deferred a number of projects that were expected to move forward under Act 44. Pennsylvania lawmakers passed Act 44 in 2007 to provide a dedicated source of transportation funding. Act 44, however, required new revenue streams and was never fully funded, in large part due to the federal government's rejection of a plan to add tolls on Interstate 80.

SEPTA remains optimistic funding for infrastructure improvements will be addressed. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, in his state budget address last month, noted the need for a "lasting" solution for transportation funding.

"SEPTA will continue to work with Gov. Corbett and the General Assembly to secure a long-term, growing and predictable funding source for transportation throughout Pennsylvania," said SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey.

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