Stimulus spent in record time, SEPTA wants more


Three years after SEPTA received $191 million under the economic stimulus program signed by President Barack Obama, all 32 projects have been completed, including upgrades to key stations, vital track work and the purchase of new hybrid buses.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was intended to spur job creation through “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects. SEPTA attributed the quick turnaround to planning by its staff, noting that all 54 contracts were signed within the first year.

“We got the contracts out there awarded quickly. The bulk of that spending was all within that first year, year and a half, as was our completing the projects,” said Bob Lund, SEPTA’s program manager for stimulus projects. “Thirty-two projects is a lot.”

The funding helped upgrade some parts of the system in dire need, including improvements on the Broad Street Line at Girard and Spring Garden stations, where new entrances, walls, floors and elevators were installed. The project modernized stations that were built between 1928 and 1932.

“They were really quite successful in getting funding and getting prepared in getting jobs out the door,” said Dick Voith, who specializes in transportation as senior vice president and principal of Econsult Corp. “They really did everything right.”

The Federal Transit Administration could not say how many transit agencies have completed their projects, but as of March 31, only 41 percent of all stimulus-funded work had been completed. Another 45 percent was more than halfway finished.

Lund said the projects directly resulted in 3,160 construction jobs, although he could not say how many of those were “new” jobs. Voith, a former SEPTA board member, estimates the economic impact was much greater.

“Given the fact that SEPTA managed to spend that much money quickly in an industry that has a lot of suppliers around here … I think that 3000-job number is a woeful underestimation,” he said.

Turning success into more cash

SEPTA is hopeful its workmanlike pace in using the stimulus funds will improve its chance to receive additional federal funding.

“We have demonstrated to the state and federal government, as well as the local entities, that if given the opportunity and the funding we can effectively and efficiently execute projects in a timely manner,” Lund said.

Last year, SEPTA received a $2.2 million competitive grant from the FTA for the Parkside Bus Loop, which Lund attributed to SEPTA’s track record.

Federal transit officials would not comment on how SEPTA’s stimulus work might affect future funding opportunities, but acknowledged their good work.

“[SEPTA] put more than $191 million to good use on projects that will improve the reliability, accessibility, and safety of its system for riders,” FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said via e-mail.


New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…


On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."


New York-based Century 21 store coming to The…

The former Strawbridge & Clothier building will once again host a department store. City officials on Thursday announced New York-based Century 21 Department Stores will…


Electric Zoo tickets on sale Tuesday as festival…

Electric Zoo tickets go on sale Tuesday. The festival announced plans to amp up security after two attendees died last year from apparent drug overdoses.


Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are…

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.


M.I.A. talks 'Matangi,' divinity, spontaneity and holograms

"There’s pressure for me to become a theatrical production like 'Glee,' or something" says M.I.A., "It’s like, 'the pressure’s on, bitches.'"


Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.


Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.


The return of Cole Hamels brings optimism

Cole Hamels’ quality start Wednesday was a nice change of pace from his recent season debuts.


Tony Gwynn Jr. a nice surprise for Phillies

Tony Gwynn Jr. has been a plus in every way for the Phillies.


2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version


Hai Street Kitchen opening in Rittenhouse May 22

Japanese cuisine will get a Chipotle-style twist at Hai Street Kitchen & Co., a new casual, quick-food restaurant opening near Rittenhouse Square on May 22.…


New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.


From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.


Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.