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National News

Public transportation in Pennsylvania is about to get a $2.8 billion boost

Credit: iStock

Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn

Over the next five years, money from President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will be headed to transit authorities across the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania airports will receive an additional $355 million over the next five years from the bill, which will provide funds to help pay for upgrades to the airlines, buses, and trains many residents rely on. 

The funding comes at a critical time for transit authorities. Public transportation ridership dropped dramatically during 2020 due to COVID19, leading to reductions in bus and rail services across Pennsylvania. Regional transit authorities have been trying to bring services back up to pre-pandemic levels, with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) planning to reach 96% of pre-pandemic bus service during 2022. The money from the IIJA will be an important piece of solving some of the budget deficits caused by COVID19.

The White House also noted that Pennsylvanians who take public transit to work spend nearly 70% longer commuting than those who drive. This has an oversized impact on the households of Black and Indigenous residents, as well as all people of color, who are five times more likely to ride public transit than their white counterparts. 

The Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority (EMTA) will receive $2.25 million from the bill. Director Jeremy Peterson noted that the EMTA is in the process of replacing the older buses in its fleet, having replaced 17 large buses and 13 smaller Lift buses last year. Peterson also indicated that some of the money may be used to further develop the EMTA’s physical plant, a project that was announced in 2008, and includes plans to build a large bus storage facility, an administrative building, and a parking ramp. There are also hopes to develop retail spaces at the EMTA’s facility, part of ongoing work to beautify midtown Erie.

Erie International Airport will also be getting upgrades thanks to $1.4 million in funding from the President’s infrastructure bill. The funding will be used to realign one of the taxiways in the airport. The project will allow more space between airplanes as they move around the airport, and brings the existing taxiway in line with modern requirements.