Biden administration to send $9.8 million to improve Pennsylvania transit system

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The Department of Transportation recently announced it would distribute $409 million in federal funds for 70 projects in 39 states.

On Monday it was announced that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will receive $9.8 million in grants from the Federal Transit Administration's Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program, which operates under the Department of Transportation.

SEPTA's system consists of 290 stations with buses, trolleys, commuter/heavy/light rail, trams, and rapid transit. In 2020, the transit system gave 223.5 million trips to riders in the region.

The grant was part of $409 million for 70 transportation projects in 39 states announced by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

"I applaud the Biden Administration for their shared interest in updating our infrastructure and the importance of having safe, reliable, and accessible public transportation," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement on Wednesday.

The $9.8 million grant will pay for the construction of two new SEPTA bus transportation centers in South Philadelphia serving up to nine bus routes. The facilities will also include bus stops that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

SEPTA has faced issues with funding in recent years, as reduced ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a shortfall of revenue. The American Rescue Plan, passed by only Democratic votes and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year, included a $96 million grant to SEPTA that will allow the transportation network to continue operating through 2024.

Leslie Richards, SEPTA's general manager, said on March 4 that the American Rescue Plan funding was vital to keeping the system operating. "With the additional money that we've received today, we feel that we can function towards the end of 2024. Before this money was announced, we weren't gonna make it that far," Richards said.

The SEPTA system is also slated to receive an additional $500 million allocated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Twenty-one projects in Southeastern Pennsylvania will receive funds, including upgrades to make facilities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and repairs for bridges.

Pennsylvania's transportation system is benefiting in other ways from Biden administration policies, most notably the state's system of bridges. The state's Department of Transportation noted in a report that 176 bridges in Allegheny County were in poor condition, including a bridge in Frick Park that collapsed in January.

The White House's infrastructure plan includes $36.7 billion in funding for bridge repair and replacement nationwide. Of that sum, Pennsylvania will receive $1.63 billion from the federal government over the next five years for bridge-related projects across the state.

Nine of the ten Republicans in Pennsylvania's congressional delegation voted against the $550 billion infrastructure bill, while all of the state's Democratic members of Congress voted in favor.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.