SEPTA proposes lean capital budget for 2012

SEPTA announced a $311 million fiscal year 2012 capital budget proposal Friday that CFO and treasurer Rich Burnfield called “less than bare bones.”

Faced with the end of federal stimulus spending and a sharp cut in state funding, the largest item in the budget proposal ― at $59 million ― is for SEPTA’s yearly bus procurement program.

The second, coming in at $53 million, will pay for vehicle overhauls.

Burnfield said the two items were essential to keeping the system up and running, but that even they have been affected. As it stands now, Burnfield said, SEPTA will be purchasing clean diesel buses as opposed to hybrids because they cost about $150,000 less.

SEPTA wants to spend $10 million for its station improvement program, which will go toward the reconstruction of the Ryers regional rail station, which is under construction, as well as the Primos and Wayne Junction regional rail station, which received a federal grant to pay for part of the repairs.

The Norristown High Speed Line platforms at 69th Street Terminal will also get a makeover to address safety concerns.

Other items include $53 million for debt service, $36 million for federally mandated signal improvements, $5 million to purchase 86 paratransit vehicles.

Construction for a new Parkside Loop is also moving forward with a $1.7 million federal grant.

At the same time, because of the state’s failure to toll Interstate 80, the federal government will be contributing more to SEPTA’s capital budget, 56 percent, than the state, which is projected to chip in 39 percent.

Unless more money is found, Burnfield said riders will experience a “slow deterioration in [their] service,” citing recent overhead wiring problems on the Warminster and Manayunk-Norristown lines as examples of the types of disruptions that will become more common as the system continues to age.

The proposal will go through two hearings before an independent hearing examiner at SEPTA Headquarters on April 26. The hearing examiner will also be accepting public comment through the close of business on that day.

More information on the hearings, as well as a copy of the budget proposal, can be found here.

The examiner will then issue a report to the SEPTA Board, which will then vote on the proposed budget.

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