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A $317 million Rail Vehicle Replacement Grant for SEPTA will be used to purchase 200 new rail cars for the Market-Frankford Line. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Pennsylvania Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) jointly announced a $317 million Rail Vehicle Replacement Grant for SEPTA on Feb. 16.

The grant — which is administered by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration — is the largest competitive grant SEPTA has ever won. The funds will be used to purchase 200 new rail cars for the Market-Frankford Line, a subway line that runs through West Philadelphia and is the busiest transit route in the SEPTA system. 

This funding initiative stems from the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in November 2021, which aims to help revitalize roads, bridges, and railroads across the country. 

“Thousands of Pennsylvanians depend on the Market-Frankford Line every day to get where they need to go,” Casey said in a statement. “With this vital funding, SEPTA can modernize its inventory with American-made rail cars while increasing safety and reliability for all of Southeastern Pennsylvania.”

The grant announcement followed a joint letter from Fetterman, Casey and Reps. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) to United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The letter encouraged the Biden administration to continue investing in the transit authority.

“Without strong, sustained support at all levels of government, Pennsylvanians risk losing access to transit and all its benefits,” they wrote

Fetterman, who led the letter to Buttigieg, called the new funding a “big deal for SEPTA.”  

“I am proud to have advocated for this critical funding and secured a record amount for southeastern Pennsylvania’s public transit infrastructure,” he wrote in Casey's press release

Pa. Gov. Josh Shapiro previously outlined over $280 million in new state funding for public transit, with SEPTA receiving the largest cut, in his January budget proposal — the latest effort to fund the transit authority after previous initiatives failed. The announcement of the new grant will allow the transit authority to begin improvements on some of its lines, including the MFL. 

2016 Fels Institute of Government graduate and Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker commended the funding announcement, calling the investment “outstanding news for public transit, for Philadelphia, and for every Philadelphian who uses SEPTA each day to get to work, school or to move across our City.” 

SEPTA CEO and Weitzman School of Design Professor of Practice Leslie Richards referred to replacing the MFL’s cars as the “highest priority” in a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The line helps to make “SEPTA’s unified and interconnected transit network possible,” she added. 

The new funding will allow the aging cars on the MFL to be replaced once a contract is signed with a rail car manufacturer. However, the first new rail cars would not arrive on the tracks until about five years later, according to the Inquirer

“It’s an investment in infrastructure that matters and can change lives,” Fetterman said in a statement