With SEPTA wrapping up the last of its 32 federally funded stimulus projects, one question is now pressing on the mind of officials: What happens next?
SEPTA says it has at least two dozen critical projects ready to go, but is in need of funding due to reductions from the state and federal governments. Among these projects are a $5.6 million project to repair a bridge on the Chestnut Hill West regional line and a $36 million initiative to overhaul the Jenkintown Power Substation, which supplies power to four commuter rail lines.
Last week, Administrator Peter Rogoff of the Federal Transportation Administration said the Obama administration could increase funding for infrastructure next year, but discussions in Washington about debt reduction have some concerned that those plans could change.
“We have lots of projects ready to go. We feel that we can create jobs and that’s good for the economy, so let’s move, let’s get started,” said SEPTA’s Chief Financial Officer Richard Burnfield.
Officials are also anxious to see the findings from an executive commission on transportation funding in Harrisburg due Aug. 1, but there are no guarantees that those recommendations would translate into legislation.
Despite the shallow pockets, SEPTA insists that it has prioritized safety with routine maintenance on tracks and signals.
“I think that we’ve really shown that we can do a good job, we’re good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” said Chief Engineer Jeff Knueppel. “And I think that’s what came out of the stimulus for us, in addition to addressing a lot of projects.”