Philly makes pact with SEPTA to channel more federal money into Philly neighborhoods

A person looks out of a SEPTA Regional Rail train

A SEPTA Regional Rail train headed to Center City, Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A new agreement between the city of Philadelphia and SEPTA is designed to promote diversity in contracting and supply the transit agency with the materials it needs to move into the future.

Deputy Managing Director Mike Carroll, who is also a SEPTA board member, said the Equity in Infrastructure Project is designed to “manifest the values” of the city of Philadelphia when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

“The Equity Infrastructure Project promises to achieve that by improving public procurement and contracting practices and by creating more opportunities for historically underutilized businesses,” Carroll said. That will help “to build generational wealth and reduce racial wealth gaps by creating more prime joint venture and equity contracting opportunities for these types of firms.”

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SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards said after last year’s passage of the federal infrastructure legislation, she joined with a group of transportation leaders to come up with a “set of industry best practices on how we contract on major infrastructure projects going forward.”

She said the agreement is important as a way of “pledging to develop and implement policies to increase the number, size, and scope of contracts going to historically underutilized businesses, particularly minority women and disadvantaged business enterprises.”

“Contracting is an opportunity to invest in our community, who we contract with to supply goods and services and fulfill construction projects as a reflection not just of our system needs but also of our values,” she said.

PennDOT, The Enterprise Center and SEPTA got together earlier in June to engage with businesses to network and talk about the future procurement of the agency.

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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the city has invested $20 million to prepare for the implementation of the federal law in order to compete successfully for federal funding.

“This has been one of our priorities from the beginning, as seen in our Rebuild program, which is bringing transformative upgrades to community spaces like our parks, recreation centers and libraries, all while creating economic opportunity in the design and construction industries,” Kenney said.

City officials estimate implementation of the law could bring more than $1 billion for roads, bridges, transit, water infrastructure, and broadband access to the city and thousands of new jobs in the coming years.

“It really is exciting not only to have the opportunity to fix our infrastructure, which is in some cases extremely poor condition, but change the infrastructure of how we contract and how government money and government contracts are given to too many more multi-diverse firms than has been done in the past,” Kenney said.

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