A number of projects vital to SEPTA and its riders will become budget casualties if the federal government does not approve a plan to provide dedicated funding for transportation in Pennsylvania, according to Fiscal Year 2011 budget projections released today.
The Federal Highway Administration is currently reviewing Pennsylvania’s application to convert Interstate 80 to a toll highway. This is a key component of Act 44, the state law enacted in 2007 to create a dedicated source for transportation funding throughout the Commonwealth.
Without I-80 tolls, Act 44 cannot be fully implemented – leaving SEPTA and other transportation agencies throughout the state significantly short on funds needed for operating expenses, infrastructure repairs and other initiatives.
SEPTA is projecting a $300 million Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2011 – reflecting cuts of $110 million due insufficient Act 44 funds. The spending plan would leave the authority with just enough to pay for mandated expenses such as debt service, vehicle and infrastructure repairs and new equipment.
However, SEPTA will not have money for a number of desperately needed initiatives. To name just a few, the potential cuts would force SEPTA to delay or abandon efforts to implement new payment technology, renovate the City Hall Station and move forward with plans for Elwyn to Wawa service. SEPTA would also lack funding for a number of Regional Rail station renovations and bridge replacements.
For its part, SEPTA is following the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission, which suggests periodic fare increases. For Fiscal Year 2011, which starts July 1, SEPTA is proposing fare increases averaging about 6 percent system-wide on all modes of travel. However, the current base transit cash fare of $2 will remain unchanged. SEPTA’s last fare increase was implemented in 2007. The new fare adjustment is consistent with leading economic indicators such as the Consumer Price Index and the Producer Price Index, both of which have increased by approximately 6 percent since the SEPTA’s last fare increase.
SEPTA anticipates generating an additional five percent in revenue under the new fare structure during Fiscal Year 2011. This will help pay for various day-to-day expenses, including projected increases in medical and prescription drug costs. SEPTA also projects a 10 percent increase in electricity costs when price caps are lifted in January 2011.