Stimulus bill to benefit SEPTA

By Andrew Stettler
March 19, 2009

Megan Pellegrino

As a result of the $787 billion stimulus package recently signed by the federal government, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, SEPTA, will receive $193 million this spring. The money will be used to repair rails from the ’30s while creating over 5,000 jobs.

The stimulus bill entitled the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was slightly smaller than what President Obama had originally proposed, will give $631 million to the Greater Philadelphia Region.

From that total amount, $120 million will go toward New Jersey state and local highway authorities, $318 million will go to Pennsylvania state and local highway authorities and $193 million will go to SEPTA.

The transit authority will use that money for projects like fixing four R5 Lansdale line bridges that were built between 1905 and 1930. This project is receiving $5.3 million. Another project will receive $36.7 million to revive the Broad Street Line’s Spring Garden and Girard stations which have been in use for over 75 years.

However, General Manager of SEPTA Joseph M. Casey says the stimulus will create 5,590 jobs and is the “true spirit” of the recovery plan.

Of those 5,590 jobs, 1,915 will create construction jobs while 875 jobs will be created in the materials industry. The 2,790 jobs left will be the goods and service workers that will be needed once those workers start spending their income.

Many have called this bill an “infrastructure stimulus,” but really only a small portion is going to infrastructure and even less is going to transportation stimulus. While the stimulus adds up to a total $728 billion, only 48.18 billion will go toward U.S. transportation infrastructure spending.

As part of Obama’s plan to “go green,” the stimulus will also offer tax cuts to those who participate in “employee-sponsored commuter programs.” If more workers begin taking public transit to work every morning, then the city of Philadelphia will produce less emissions in the long run.

The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia says that outside of SEPTA, transportation money will go to repaving I-476 in Montgomery County. One hundred and twenty million dollars will go toward that project, while another “$66 million has been requested for repairs to the Girard Point Bridge, which carries I-95 between the Philadelphia International Airport and downtown,” the site recently said in a post that outlines what the stimulus means for the Greater Philadelphia region.

Some critics complain that giving SEPTA funding is a mistake, implying that SEPTA wants to create a new audio-visual public address system, or a recorded voice that announces each stop through a loud speaker, it seems obvious that the out of date Philadelphia transit authority is in great neat of government help.

Passengers have asked for fare cards, or prepaid ticket cards, like the ones New York and Washington D.C. railways use, but so far SEPTA has said little on the subject

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Andrew Stettler

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