Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) General Manager Joseph M. Casey urged Pennsylvania lawmakers to resolve the state's transit funding crisis, highlighting the critical infrastructure repairs that would be left undone without a solution.
Casey testified before the before the Pennsylvania House Transportation and Policy committees at Saint Joseph's University on Friday. The hearing was part of a series lawmakers are holding throughout the state as transit agencies deal with severe funding shortages under Act 44.
"Capital investment is essential to ensure that we can maintain safe, efficient operations, and provide service that meets the needs of our customers," Casey said.
Insufficient funding from Act 44 — the state law enacted in 2007 to create a dedicated source for transportation funding in Pennsylvania — forced SEPTA to cut $110 million from its Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2011, which begins July 1, 2010. Most of the 22 projects deferred focused on station renovations, facility upgrades and other long-needed infrastructure improvements. Major initiatives such as New Payment Technology and the City Hall Station overhaul were also slashed to pare the bare-bones spending plan down to $300 million.
Transit agencies throughout Pennsylvania are experiencing similar budget problems related to Act 44. Continued full funding from Act 44 was dependent on the addition of tolls to Interstate 80, but the state's funding proposal for this was rejected by the Federal Highway Administration.
Casey noted SEPTA's progress since Act 44 went into effect, and said SEPTA has been a "careful financial steward" by wisely investing and advancing "many initiatives addressing useful life, state of good repair, vehicle replacement and system improvements." But, he added: "Without sufficient capital resources, the Authority will not be able to sustain its current level of investment in vital transit assets."
"The loss of Act 44 funding will deal a major blow to public transit and highways that will translate into fewer permanent jobs, and significantly reduced opportunities for contractors and engineers who support public transit and highway construction and revitalization initiatives," Casey said. "The Commonwealth cannot afford to sustain such job losses or reduced capital investment in its vital transportation infrastructure."
To see SEPTA's Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2011, visit www.septa.org/reports.