The Pennsylvania state government passed a $2.3 billion transportation package that will allow SEPTA to dodge a doomsday budget that would have cut transit services throughout the region.
Last week, the General Assembly approved the plan, which includes about $475 million per year earmarked for public transportation — of which SEPTA expects to receive about $350 million per year, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The transit agency will use the money for sorely needed infrastructure improvements, particularly for century-old bridges on the regional rail lines.
In September, SEPTA officials prepared a contingency budget that would have been enacted if funding were not increased. It would have closed nine of the 13 regional rail lines by 2023 and replace several trolley lines with buses.
“Obviously we want to see an approval of the transportation funding bill, but unfortunately this is the reality of what SEPTA will look like without a solution,” SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch told The Daily Pennsylvanian in September. However, with the passage of the bill, SEPTA will begin work on its infrastructure projects immediately, the Inquirer reported.
The bill also represents a major legislative victory for imperiled Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Transportation funding has been a policy priority for Corbett, who is viewed as one of the most vulnerable governors up for re-election in 2014. In a late October Franklin & Marshall College poll, only 20 percent of Pennsylvanians said they thought the governor should be re-elected.
While a Republican challenger hasn’t entered the race, the Democratic field is crowded, with six candidates — including 1984 Law School graduate John Hanger, a former secretary of environmental protection, and 1989 Wharton MBA recipient Rob McCord, the current state treasurer — vying for the nomination.
The transportation bill represents the first big accomplishment for Corbett, who has had trouble getting policy initiatives through the General Assembly despite it being controlled by Republicans. His pushes to privatize liquor sales, privatize the lottery and reform the state’s pension system have run into roadblocks thus far.
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