SEPTA Board approves capital, operating budgets, plus new locomotives

The SEPTA Board was busy yesterday, giving the official OK to both the capital and operating budgets, plus authorizing another $154 million to purchase new locomotives.

The board adopted a $534.54 million capital budget for Fiscal Year 2016, which begins July 1st. PlanPhilly highlighted some of the major projects in the proposed budget earlier this year and you can check out the complete budget here.  

Notably, the capital budget includes $15 million this coming year and $44 million in 2017 to purchase bi-level coaches for the regional rail lines. These coaches will be operated on express and limited service along some of the busier regional rail lines, to help alleviate the cramped conditions passengers face during the rush hour commutes.

To pull these heavier coaches, SEPTA’s trains need a bit more horsepower, which is why the Board also approved spending up to $154 million to purchase thirteen ACS-64 push-pull locomotives for Siemens, with an option for five more.  The ACS-64 is the same locomotive used by Amtrak on the Northeast corridor, and the same involved in the May 12th derailment.

At about $8.5 million per locomotive, SEPTA is paying more than Amtrak did a few years earlier, when it ordered 70 locomotives for a total of $466 million – about $6.7 million per locomotive.

The capital budget also included $60 million for new buses, $29 million for overhauling the Lansdale regional rail station and to build a 895-space parking garage, $20 million to rehab the Levittown regional rail station, and $1.3 million for train-control equipment.

The $534.54 million FY 2016 budget is nearly $40 million less than last year’s $571.8 million budget, but still much larger than previous years’ budgets, which hovered around $300 million. The increase stems from passage of Act 89 in 2013, which significantly increased state transportation funding.

SEPTA also approved a $1.36 billion operating budget with no major changes in service or fees. While SEPTA is proposing fifteen changes to its bus and rail routes in its Annual Service Plan review, those would not impact the operating budget. The SEPTA board is expected to consider the service plan proposals at its next meeting in June.

The operating budget jumped $33 million from last year, driven largely from increased labor health care costs.

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