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.
The Pittsburgh area is set to receive $30 million in funding from the President’s infrastructure bill, with the majority of the money going to the Port Authority. Port Authority CEO Katherine Kelleman said that “This funding will go a long way to ensure Western Pennsylvania can continue to enjoy improved air quality, lower carbon emissions and access to equitable transportation that Port Authority provides.” The Port Authority is planning to replace their aging light rail trains, most of which are over 35 years old.
Governor Wolf also announced that progress on a long-expected second daily train from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg was made possible, thanks in part to funding from the infrastructure bill.