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Feds earmark roughly $600M for Pennsylvania public transit


(The Center Square) — The federal government will send more than $600 million into Pennsylvania to bolster public transportation funding, part of its efforts to expand and modernize transit systems.

The Philadelphia area is set to receive the most of the Federal Transit Administration funds: $448 million. Statutory formulas and funding levels set by Congress determine how much money flows.

Nationally, the FTA announced grants totaling more than $20 billion.

“As part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan, we’re making history’s biggest-ever federal investment in transit – trains, buses, ferries, and more – so people can reliably and affordably get to wherever they need to be,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release. “This $20.5 billion investment in public transportation will support the daily lives of millions of Americans across the country and help communities expand access to economic opportunity.”

In total, Pennsylvania’s transit agencies will receive almost $618 million from the federal government. The FTA announced funds by urbanized area:

Pittsburgh: $82.9 millionLancaster: $26.4 millionHarrisburg: $15 millionAllentown: $12.2 millionReading: $6 millionYork: $5.5 million

Money can be used to expand, maintain, and operate public transit systems; upgrade stations, tracks, and maintenance facilities; plan and design new transit corridors; and improve access, according to the FTA. Federal officials call the money part of “the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history.”

The money comes as transit agencies struggle to recover from the effects of the pandemic. More people still work from home, meaning fewer daily commuters. Concerns about crime and safety, too, have meant that riders have sought alternatives.

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have struggled to rebuild ridership on their transit systems after dramatic declines.

In recent years, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has warned about a $240 million budget hole that could force “difficult decisions.” Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed boosting SEPTA’s funds by giving it a larger portion of state sales tax revenues and legislators have suggested more local taxes to cover costs.

SEPTA officials have emphasized efforts to hire more security officers and cleaners to assuage public concerns. In April, full-length fare gates have been installed at some stations to stop fare evaders.