NBC10 - Christine Maddela
SEPTA and PennDOT await to hear if legislatures will pass a transportation funding bill, which officials say could avoid a disaster.
SEPTA officials are preparing for the worst, detailing a doomsday scenario that they say will take place if Pennsylvania lawmakers don’t pass a transportation funding measure in the next nine days.
In a written press release, officials stated that SEPTA’s fiscal year 2014, which began on July 1, 2013, represents the fourth straight year of reduced capital funding from the state and the lowest capital funding in 15 years. Despite the lack of funding, officials also say SEPTA has seen its overall ridership hit its highest levels in over two decades, including an all-time high on its Regional Rail last year.
SEPTA officials warn that if they don’t receive the necessary funding they need, the results could be disastrous for thousands of riders in the area. SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey says that there is already a problem with bridges and equipment in need of repair. A recent study revealed that Pennsylvania currently leads the country in structurally deficient bridges.
“We need to fix it,” Casey said. “If we don’t fix it, you’ll see the system go away.”
PennDOT officials also say they won’t be able to fix potholes or deficient bridges if the bill doesn’t pass.
“It’s going to affect everybody,” said PennDOT Director Les Toaso. “Everything that we do costs us money. If we don’t get additional funding, that amount of functionally deficient bridges is going to go up instead of down.”
Toaso says 95 bridges in the area now have a lower weight limit in order to slow down bridge decay. Toaso believes it’s merely a “band-aid” rather than a real solution to the problem.
“The truck driver who delivers the food, who delivers your basic services is going to have to detour,” Toaso said.
If the funding bill is not passed, SEPTA officials say they will have to implement a “Service Realignment Plan” that will leave around 89,000 daily riders or 40.7 million annually without rail service.
According to officials, the following changes will have to be made without funding:
Casey and SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. wrote a letter to the state Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch detailing their funding needs. The officials claimed $6.5 billion was needed over the next 10 years. They also warned that shrinking SEPTA’s regional and state transportation would lead to more vehicles on the roadway, which ultimately means more traffic congestion and higher roadway maintenance cost.
Lawmakers in Harrisburg continue to work towards passing the bill.