A recent article expressed concern on the part of a transportation "planner" concerning an effort underway to reopen a passenger
station at the Philadelphia Zoo near Amtrak's Zoo interlocking. According to the article, the station could cost roughly $60 million
and would grind rail traffic to a halt on the Northeast Corridor.
A national voice is emerging calling for reform of spending policies by Federal and state agencies on transportation projects. The leading voices, David Gunn, who is the former Executive Director of Amtrak and the last SEPTA general manager to operate the Fox Chase-Newtown line, along with former SEPTA manager Eugene Skorpowski, who spearheaded the effort to restart the Newtown line in 1991. More and more, leaders in the transit field are echoing what PA-TEC has been clamoring about for years.
Meanwhile, DVRPC, the agency tasked by the federal government to steer most transportation funding, now spends more of its resources
planning bike trails. The exact amount that DVRPC spends on any effort, of course, is a secret -
a recent Commonwealth Court ruling determined that DVRPC did not perform
any "essential function", and was therefore not subject to the Right-to-Know Law, and thus free of any pesky public oversight.
Persistent calls from PA-TEC to direct transportation funding to core projects were answered on June 19 when U.S. Senator Bob Casey and
U.S. Reps Allyson Schwartz and Chakkah Fattah obtained funding for SEPTA to replace the 1930's power station.
This power station is critical for the operation of regional rail and SEPTA GM Joe Casey repeatedly used the condition of this power
station as proof that SEPTA needed more money. Despite this, SEPTA made little effort to fund the Wayne Junction power station.
PA-TEC has made many public statements, notably at DVRPC meetings, that funding of core infrastructure should take precedence over SEPTA's unnecessary beautification projects. PA-TEC used the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know law to obtain SEPTA's e-mail records on the project, one of which revealed Joe Casey calling PA-TEC "idiots" for pointing out Mr. Casey's failure to prioritize the project.
Despite a $300 million capital budget for FY 2013, SEPTA has not allocated any funding to replace important bridges and substations that power the railroad lines. Next year's capital budget focuses only on buying more buses, elevators for subway stations, debt payments on the Silverliner V railcars, and the new "RFID" fare payment system.
DVRPC and SEPTA continue to block PA-TEC from access to public records on projects and the funding prioritization process. SEPTA has chosen to sue PA-TEC in Court to litigate several requests for information rather than operate in an open and transparent environment. SEPTA's secretive policies continue to prevent the public from having a true discourse on how the authority operates. Oral arguments are scheduled on the ides of March.
DVRPC's board of directors led by Camden County Commissioner Louis J. Cappelli voted unanimously to adopt a new
Memorandum of Understanding that allows the agency to modify the region's Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP)
without input from the terminated Regional Citizens Committee.