The Top 5 Items on This Year’s SEPTA Wish List

AKA "highlights from the Fiscal Year 2017 Capital Budget."

New locomotives are just one of the items SEPTA will spend capital budget money on in fiscal 2017.

New locomotives are just one of the items SEPTA will spend capital budget money on in fiscal 2017.

Each fiscal year, SEPTA releases two budgets: operating and capital. The operating budget, released last week, is the bread-and-butter budget that projects what SEPTA will spend on keeping us moving around the region.

The capital budget, released over the weekend, is SEPTA’s wish list: It outlines not only what it will spend on building and fixing stuff in the year ahead but also what it wants to build and fix in the next dozen years.

SEPTA’s cup now runneth over with capital projects for the next 12 years thanks in large part to the steady stream of state funding guaranteed by the passage of Act 89 in Gov. Tom Corbett‘s last year in office. The total price tag for everything SEPTA wants to build or fix during that time frame is $7.3 billion, up from $6.8 billion in the previous fiscal year. What the agency plans to spend on its infrastructure in the coming year also rose, from $534.54 million to $548.63 million, a 2.6% increase and more than the agency projected it would spend in fiscal 2017 at the start of this year.

So what will that $548.63 million buy this year? The short answer is: A ton of bridge, track, station, overhead wire, communications infrastructure and maintenance and storage facility repairs as well as the start of an upgrade to SEPTA’s headquarters and a little more headway on SEPTA Key. What follows are some of the biggest-ticket items on this year’s to-do list:

New and overhauled vehicles. SEPTA plans to spend a total of $168 million, the single biggest spending category in the capital budget, on vehicle acquisitions and overhauls. The main spending items this coming year: $75 million for vehicle overhauls, $60 million toward a $415 million purchase of 525 40-foot-long hybrid buses over the next four calendar years, and $15.5 million toward a $162 million purchase of 13 Siemens electric locomotives that will add carrying capacity on Regional Rail once they and their companion bi-level passenger rail cars arrive. The locos are set to be delivered in 2018 and the passenger cars in 2019-20.

SEPTA Key. Yes, you’ve been waiting for this forever, but this year, the rubber hits the road, or rather, the contactless fare card gets waved in front of the reader. The $77.15 million allocated for this project in fiscal 2017 is the largest single-year allocation for the entire $298 million project.

Stations, loops and parking facilities. Totaling $43.8 million in the coming year, these projects include the ongoing reconstruction of the 15th Street/City Hall station complex ($7.06 million next year), a new Regional Rail station for Levittown ($4.45 million) and a reconfigured and improved Paoli Transportation Center ($3 million). A total of $11.5 million will be spent on five projects to build new parking facilities and another $15.74 million will be spread across 12 Regional Rail and transit stations and the ongoing program of renewal of the Center City transit concourses.

Infrastructure safety renewal. SEPTA plans to spend $43.5 million in fiscal 2017 on these projects, which are generally low-profile but crucial to keeping the system in good working order. The projects that fall into this category include replacing worn rails and aging switches, replacing overhead catenary wire, renewal of grade crossings and in-street tracks, improvements to a slew of communications and signal systems, and minor repairs and upgrades at stations throughout the system.

Bridge repairs. Those of you who remember SEPTA’s slow-death-by-starvation service plan, which proved instrumental in lighting a fire under Harrisburg, may recall that the Crum Creek Viaduct on the Media/Elwyn Regional Rail Line was the poster child for the system’s crumbling infrastructure. The good news is that the replacement for this viaduct is now well under way, but there are others like it that need fixing too. SEPTA will spend $33 million on these in fiscal 2017, including a handful of other aged steel viaducts on the Media/Elwyn Line and a bunch of stone arch viaducts. Design work will also continue on the replacement of a Norristown High-Speed Line bridge at the 69th Street Terminal end of the line.

Dwarfing all but one of these categories, however, is the $99.7 million the agency will spend this coming year on its financial obligations, including lease payments and debt service.

If you’d like to read about all the projects work will begin on or continue this year along with the 12-year projections, you can read the entire capital budget (PDF) at SEPTA’s website.

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