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FTA Administrator Rogoff Gets Up-Close Look at SEPTA's Infrastructure Needs

On July 11, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter M. Rogoff traveled to Philadelphia to see firsthand the extent of SEPTA's infrastructure needs and to discuss the importance of investing in America's aging mass transportation systems. In 2009, the FTA estimated it would cost $4.2 billion to bring SEPTA's infrastructure up to a "State of Good Repair."

When it was established by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1964, SEPTA inherited the wire systems, bridges, substations, viaducts and stations originally built by the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, Philadelphia and West Chester Traction Company, Philadelphia and Western Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Railroad. Many of the incorporated facilities date to the mid 1800s, and were not well maintained by previous owners.

"We have a very old system, some of which has operated far beyond its useful life," said SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey. "We have an extensive list of needs and many projects ready to begin, but cannot proceed with the work without adequate funding."

Despite the serious challenges presented by an aging infrastructure with many vital components that are upwards of 100 years old, SEPTA, the nation's sixth largest transportation agency, provides safe, reliable service for 1.1 million people a day.

"We do a meticulous job of maintaining our system, but we are running out of time," SEPTA Chief Engineer and Assistant General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel said during a briefing attended by Rogoff, U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. and U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah at SEPTA headquarters. "The system will start to shrink if we don't make improvements now."

Following the briefing, SEPTA officials led Rogoff on a tour of some of the Authority's region-wide facilities: City Hall Station, Jenkintown Traction Power Substation, Paoli Station, Norristown High Speed Line and 69th Street Transportation Center. During his visit, Rogoff also met Philadelphia Mayor Nutter at City Hall; U.S. Representative Jim Gerlach at Paoli Station; and Caitlin Ganley, District Chief of Staff for U.S. Representative Patrick Meehan, at 69th Street Transportation Center.

"I'm really struck by how fragile the infrastructure is that is supporting millions of passengers," Rogoff told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "We will continue to focus on state of good repair issues - they've been ignored too long."

Funding cuts have forced SEPTA to defer dozens of improvement projects. This can lead to expensive emergency repairs and heavy maintenance work. Further delays could result in major service disruptions.

Administrator Rogoff visited the Jenkintown Traction Power Substation, which was built in 1930.

From left: Rogoff and U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah toured SEPTA's Control Center with Chief Control Center Officer Ron Hopkins.

From left: SEPTA Assistant GM and Chief Engineer Jeffrey Knueppel discussed infrastructure needs at 15th Street Station with Senator Casey, Rogoff and Mayor Nutter.

The Jenkintown Traction Power Substation has been in continuous operation for more than 80 years.

From left: U.S. Representative Gerlach, Rogoff and SEPTA GM Joseph Casey discussed infrastructure needs at Paoli Station.