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SEPTA loses out on stimulus money for smart card

SEPTA finished out of the money in its latest effort to get federal stimulus funds to help cover the cost of implementing a new smart card system.

The authority had applied for $29.3 million from the TIGER II program that would pay for the installation of the system on buses, trolleys, trackless trolleys and the Norristown High Speed Line.

It was competing against $19 billion in other requests ― all chasing the same $600 million pot of money.

SEPTA also lost out on getting funding from the first TIGER program earlier in the year.

That round provided $23 million to create a pedestrian and bike trail network throughout the Delaware Valley.

While acknowledging winning TIGER II money would be difficult, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said at the time that the money was “the key to getting us moving” forward on the smart card project ― especially given the loss in dedicated state funding under Act 44.

SEPTA treasurer and CFO Richard Burnfield said that he was “obviously disappointed” by the decision, especially because SEPTA had made extensive changes to its application after being turned down for TIGER money the first time.

At the same time, Burnfield said that efforts to piece together funding for the $100 million smart card project continued and that he’s “still optimistic that I’ll be able to somehow pull something together to keep the project moving forward.”

Despite the smart card loss, SEPTA is an indirect beneficiary of the recent TIGER round.

As previously reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Center City District did snag $15 million to help rebuild Dilworth Plaza, which sits on top of the aging City Hall station in Center City.

Burnfield said he was happy the project got funding and added that work on Dilworth Plaza would have to be coordinated with SEPTA’s own $20 million early action program for rebuilding the station.

The only other Pennsylvania capital project to get funding was a $10 million road and freight rail project in Central Pennsylvania designed to upgrade infrastructure in the wake of increased drilling of the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation press release.

Pittsburgh received an $825,000 planning grant for design work to convert a six-mile rail right of way into a riverfront trail.

A total of 42 capital projects and 33 planning projects over 40 states won money under the program.

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