Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
Over the next five years, money from President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will be headed to transit authorities across the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania airports will receive an additional $355 million over the next five years from the bill, which will provide funds to help pay for upgrades to the airlines, buses, and trains many residents rely on.
The funding comes at a critical time for transit authorities. Public transportation ridership dropped dramatically during 2020 due to COVID19, leading to reductions in bus and rail services across Pennsylvania. Regional transit authorities have been trying to bring services back up to pre-pandemic levels, with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) planning to reach 96% of pre-pandemic bus service during 2022. The money from the IIJA will be an important piece of solving some of the budget deficits caused by COVID19.
The White House also noted that Pennsylvanians who take public transit to work spend nearly 70% longer commuting than those who drive. This has an oversized impact on the households of Black and Indigenous residents, as well as all people of color, who are five times more likely to ride public transit than their white counterparts.
Due to COVID19, March daily ridership on SEPTA was still only half of pre-pandemic levels, which meant a daily operating loss of close to $1 million. Officials with SEPTA noted this loss could force the agency to shut down without federal aid from bills like the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
SEPTA will receive $95 million from the federal government. The money will be used to increase accessibility at railway stations, modernize the trolley system, and replace aging railcars. SEPTA anticipates receiving about $500 million total from the IIJA over the next five years. Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is also expected to receive $30.7 million from the Infrastructure Bill. The airport is likely to use most of the funds to support its cargo expansion program, which will double the available cargo space at the airport and could create as many as 6,000 new permanent jobs and 5,000 construction jobs annually. Officials also announced plans to use money from the new Terminal Modernization program, which will be used to improve the experience of airport customers.