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Northeast Philly lawmakers drive attention to funding Philly's transportation infrastructure

Amidst the din of barreling Amtrak trains at Holmesburg Junction Station, State Sen. Mike Stack and State Rep. Mike McGeehan drew attention to the dire need to fund Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure this past week. Speaking a week before Gov. Corbett’s long-awaited release of a transportation funding plan, Sen. Stack and Rep. McGeehan sounded the alarm on the poor state of road and mass transit infrastructure in the Philadelphia area.

Stack (D-Philadelphia) focused his remarks on the urgency of fixing SEPTA’s infrastructure. “Our transportation system is falling apart right underneath our tracks,” says Stack, as he stood next to the bustling Northeast Corridor rail tracks. He pulled out some sobering statistics, including that SEPTA’s mean bridge age is more than 80 years old. While Northeast Corridor bridges are maintained by Amtrak, this includes bridges on SEPTA’s West Trenton line, which pierces Stack’s district. Some bridges on Regional Rail lines outside of the senator's district are even older and in even worse shape.

Stack, along with SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey, spoke specifically about Holmesburg Junction Station, which serves SEPTA’s Trenton line trains. Stack mentioned that SEPTA’s last rider census showed 613 riders using the stop every weekday. The station’s popularity is underscored by the multitude of cars that easily fill up the station’s small parking lot and bubble over onto the surrounding streets. Casey emphasized that if SEPTA received additional state funding, it would install more parking, renovate the train station, and make it handicapped accessible. 

McGeehan (D-Philadelphia), the Democratic chair of the House Transportation Committee, concentrated on past accomplishments of transportation spending and their potential to create jobs and improve the city. One accomplishment he cited was red-light cameras, which he said have made Roosevelt Blvd. a safer place to drive. McGeehan also made certain to equate transportation spending with job creation, whether in construction, engineering, or other fields. Finally, he pointedly stated “we can’t have a first-class city without a first-class transportation system.” 

While funding SEPTA is certainly important, the senator and representative also urged Gov. Corbett to fund the region’s roads and bridges. Just in Philadelphia, there are 85 “structurally deficient” bridges and 145 bridges that have otherwise outlived their prime, which ferry 5.5 million cars every day, according to Sen. Stack. Some of the most well-traveled bridges are on I-95, which runs through Holmesburg. Statewide, the Commonwealth has the nation’s highest percentage of “structurally deficient” bridges, he says. 

Stack and McGeehan consistently referenced the sense of urgency that must accompany transportation funding. There will be “nothing but tragic consequences if we don’t do anything,” said Stack with a sense of gloom. “Invest in infrastructure now, not before it’s too late.” Their remarks were directed largely at Gov. Corbett, who many observers believe has put off finding a transportation infrastructure funding solution. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Senator Mike Stack and Representative Mike McGeehan
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