Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Lawsuit

Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.

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Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Lawsuit

Postby zebrasepta » Mon Feb 25, 2019 9:04 pm

https://www.philly.com/transportation/s ... 90225.html

SEPTA officials put almost 40 improvement projects on hold this month as it awaits the outcome of a lawsuit that could slash a third of its capital budget by this summer.

Construction that is underway is continuing, but design work on 21 projects has stopped. Those stalled include high-profile work such as the $1 billion plan to modernize the trolley network with new vehicles, a $59 million renovation of the transit hub beneath City Hall, and work on stations at Secane, Noble, Tasker-Morris, and Villanova. Purchasing for 16 other projects has also stopped.

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The Turnpike Commission makes annual payments to PennDot of about $450 million each year, and SEPTA receives more than 75 percent of that. For the first three quarters of this fiscal year, the turnpike has not made any of its $112.5 million payments to PennDot because of the lawsuit. The suit prevented the agency from raising the bonds needed to make the payments to the state, turnpike officials said.


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In the last five years SEPTA has reduced its “state of good repair” backlog from $5 billion to $4.6 billion thanks in part to state funding and has moved beyond simple maintenance to pursue modernization and expansion projects. Without the stream of turnpike funding, Burnfield said, the transit agency would likely not only stop expanding, but would fall behind maintenance work.

Here's the list of projects that are affected

Design interrupted
Villanova Station
Fern Rock Transportation Center
Midvale Facility Relocation
Jenkintown-Wyncote Station
Willow Grove Station Facility
Tasker-Morris Station
Center City Concourses
Secane Station
City Hall Station
Noble Station

Do not start design
Mainline Schuylkill bridges
Wyoming Complex
Wayne Junction Shop
Courtland roof
69th Street Complex roofs
Erie Avenue Station
Market-Frankford Line and Regional Railroad capacity
Trolley modernization
Wayne Junction security
Powelton Yard
Escalator/Elevator program

Stop construction procurement
2020 critical bridges
Stone Arch Bridges
Tank relining program
Jefferson Station ventilation
69th Street parking garage
Ardmore Transportation Center
Utility Fleet renewal
Suburban Station ventilation
Bicycle transit access
Wayne Interlocking
Elwyn-Wawa station facilities
Elmwood fencing
Gwynedd parking
Villanova Station ramp canopies
Regional Railroad substations
Westmoreland loop
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby ChesterValley » Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:13 pm

There are some more details to this lawsuit https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/03/05/pa-turnpike-commission-11-billion-in-debt/ The important tidbit:
The problem, it turns out, is a federal lawsuit filed last year against the Turnpike by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the National Motorists Association.

They say tolls from drivers and truckers should only be used for turnpike improvements, not public transit.

Given that claim, the Turnpike is holding up payment to PennDOT.



This lawsuit has also halted payments from the turnpike to PennDOT halting PennDOT projects. They argue that act 44 and 89 are illegal because they use money for the turnpike for mass tranist projects. and according to https://www.mcall.com/news/traffic/road-warrior/mc-nws-road-warrior-turnpike-toll-hikes-20190103-story.html
The special interest groups may have case law on their side. A similar lawsuit in New York succeeded when federal judges found that toll revenue from the New York Thruway was being inappropriately spent to restore the state’s canal system.


There is no timeline on the lawsuit so SEPTA is hamstrung indefinitely pending the results of this case
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Tue Mar 12, 2019 10:46 pm

NJT may also be impacted by future rulings as well, as much of the NJ State Transportation Fund come from NJTA (Turnpike/Parkway) revenue. PANYNJ and MTA/TBTA toll revenue could be at stake too.
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby sammy2009 » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:34 pm

I'm just trying to gather this...so basically all the money that was collected for the turnpike was not put to use for improvements on the turnpike if i am comprehending ? I really will hate to see so many of these SEPTA projects be stopped in their tracks, which drastically needs to happen. So is the lawsuit also about the pricing of the turnpike being to expensive ?
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby JeffK » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:56 am

sammy2009 wrote:ISo is the lawsuit also about the pricing of the turnpike being to expensive ?

Indirectly. The thrust of the suit is that turnpike tolls are being used to pay for projects unrelated to the turnpike. Ostensibly if the funds were used only for turnpike-related projects less money would be needed and tolls would be lower. (Emphasis on "ostensibly")

This is part of a MUCH larger debate over whether money from user fees paid to any agency can and/or should be used to pay for projects that are outside the direct umbrella of that agency. There are solid arguments on both sides, one for keeping the money entirely within the source agency's purview and one for using some of it to fund what might be called "the greater good". E.g. it's definitely arguable that diverting toll money to pay for transit helps get cars off the road which benefits drivers. OTOH, despite my near-fanatical support for transit I can understand why a long-distance trucker would be unhappy about having their travel costs increased to support buses in Lancaster.

I can see the suit having huge implications because it gets to the core of how much of our society is funded. There's strong support among the right-wing to make many services pay-as-you-go, which collides head-on with the longstanding philosophy that as a nation we're more than just a collection of self-interested individuals. Admittedly it's farther afield, but suppose the pay-as-you-go idea were applied to schools: each parent would have to in effect pay a tuition bill for every child they have, even in kindergarten. That approach would make the cost of education way more transparent, but at the same time it would upend the principle that all of us benefit from an educated population so we all should help pay for it. [FWIW, the idea of PAYG education isn't far-fetched, there are and have been numerous countries where it's the norm - generally to their detriment.]

Bottom line, no simple answers.
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby ChesterValley » Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:20 pm

Where does this leave us? SEPTA cannot continue or even start new projects, and this lawsuit threatens the basic functions of SEPTA and transit agencies across PA!
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby JeffersonLeeEng » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:48 pm

ChesterValley wrote:Where does this leave us? SEPTA cannot continue or even start new projects, and this lawsuit threatens the basic functions of SEPTA and transit agencies across PA!


Possibly in the state SEPTA was previously in when they threatened across-the-board deep service and operational cuts (2013 was the last time, or thereabouts, I think)...

https://www.philly.com/transportation/s ... 90313.html
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby NorthPennLimited » Wed Mar 13, 2019 6:48 pm

It’s a tough situation.

As a country, we have a huge addiction to debt and cheap loans. The Federal Reserve has become a dope dealer to propagate this trend for over 2 decades. The endless wars in the Middle East have exacerbated our national debt. Our national debt is over $22 trillion. If you divide the debt by the taxpayers; each working, taxpaying, legal citizen of this country would have to pay $180,000 to eliminate the national debt crisis. That doesn’t even address the debt burden the Commonwealth is sitting on.

Back to the SEPTA/ PennDOT / Turnpike situation, I have mixed emotions. On one side, I can see the argument that toll revenue should benefit the user. However, using the Turnpike is a choice of the user. There are free county roads, state roads, and interstate highways, the latter of which is almost wholly subsidized by US Government. But the Turnpike is the fastest, most convenient was to cross the state. So paying a toll is like a convenience tax. But that tax is optional. If you disagree with toll roads, use a different route from point A to point B.

The other argument is; on the eastern half of the state, SEPTA keeps commuters off the Turnpike which increases trip velocity for the trucking companies, which lowers operating costs because the truck drivers aren’t wasting pay hours and hours of service time sitting in traffic due to commuter congestion.

But eventually we (as a state, and a nation) have to stop strangling the taxpayers and businesses and driving them away to other countries, and keeping their liquid wealth in foreign banks who tax LESS than the USA.

Our elected leaders have to start controlling how we spend, but eliminating entitlements and making difficult, long-term decisions don’t get politicians re-elected.

I agree on the gasoline tax channeling money to fund SEPTA, but I’m not sure where I stand on Turnpike revenue going to mass transit. I understand the argument of the trucking lobbyists. I would be mad if my sewer tax went up to pay for a new public library, or if my local earned income taxes were increased to pay for State park improvements in the northwest corner of the state.

This court ruling could have a big impact on how our taxes and “user fees” are spent.
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby ChrisinAbington » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:43 am

NorthPennLimited wrote:It’s a tough situation.

As a country, we have a huge addiction to debt and cheap loans. The Federal Reserve has become a dope dealer to propagate this trend for over 2 decades. The endless wars in the Middle East have exacerbated our national debt. Our national debt is over $22 trillion. If you divide the debt by the taxpayers; each working, taxpaying, legal citizen of this country would have to pay $180,000 to eliminate the national debt crisis. That doesn’t even address the debt burden the Commonwealth is sitting on.

Back to the SEPTA/ PennDOT / Turnpike situation, I have mixed emotions. On one side, I can see the argument that toll revenue should benefit the user. However, using the Turnpike is a choice of the user. There are free county roads, state roads, and interstate highways, the latter of which is almost wholly subsidized by US Government. But the Turnpike is the fastest, most convenient was to cross the state. So paying a toll is like a convenience tax. But that tax is optional. If you disagree with toll roads, use a different route from point A to point B.

The other argument is; on the eastern half of the state, SEPTA keeps commuters off the Turnpike which increases trip velocity for the trucking companies, which lowers operating costs because the truck drivers aren’t wasting pay hours and hours of service time sitting in traffic due to commuter congestion.

But eventually we (as a state, and a nation) have to stop strangling the taxpayers and businesses and driving them away to other countries, and keeping their liquid wealth in foreign banks who tax LESS than the USA.

Our elected leaders have to start controlling how we spend, but eliminating entitlements and making difficult, long-term decisions don’t get politicians re-elected.

I agree on the gasoline tax channeling money to fund SEPTA, but I’m not sure where I stand on Turnpike revenue going to mass transit. I understand the argument of the trucking lobbyists. I would be mad if my sewer tax went up to pay for a new public library, or if my local earned income taxes were increased to pay for State park improvements in the northwest corner of the state.

This court ruling could have a big impact on how our taxes and “user fees” are spent.

Well said.
Just to piggyback off this, the ACT44 and 89 "fixes" to mass transit funding were somewhat based on a house of cards. ACT 44 was supposed to be contingent on I-80 getting tolled by the PATP (PA Turnpike) and tapping into the new source of revenue, while 89 was a partial fix to the mess that 44 created to the PATP finances when the feds said "no, you can't do that" for the third time. Not surprisingly, the Federal Highway Administration didn't take kindly to PA tolling an existing free interstate and using the generated fees elsewhere in the state. Much like the trucking lawsuit today, the feds said it would be one thing if you used the tolls on the corridor for systematic improvements or expansion, but you can't throw it into another pot of money for the state to use since the feds own the road. PA couldn't effectively convince the FHA otherwise, so I-80 was not tolled. However with ACT 44 in place, the PATP by law had to start making defined payments to the state for the mass transit trust fund. Without the new revenue stream, debt financing was their only ticket to meeting their obligations. Tolls have gone up each year since 2009 (far outpacing inflation), however the debt burden of the PATP has steadily risen at a greater rate as well. ACT 89 will somewhat help the long-term solvency of the PATP, but they are very heavily in debt with no particularly easy way out..
That's the other side of the equation. I believe the truckers figured out where the tolls are going to be in a few years and balked now rather than wait for the inevitable. I realize SEPTA doesn't have much pull in the rest of the state, but I would hope they would have worked on an alternative strong funding plan in the past several years for when this shoe was due to drop. This should not have been a surprise to anyone who looked at where the state funding was coming from. Even if this suit is thrown out, they really have to get cracking on a replacement source than the PATP. Nobody wants to see a PATP bailout.
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby drinkatoast » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:50 am

Very good arguments here and there's a lot to digest. First I surely see the truth in the Tpk user's complaint about toll moneys going to projects far afield of the actual Tpk, for the "greater good" of other state functions. I personally think that diverting these highway revenues for the "greater good" is perfectly valid, esp. when that "greater good" reduces traffic on the Tpk in the Phila. and Pittsburgh areas; but it's indirect and I could see a court approving a narrow Tpk-only use of the tolls. (By the way I think the much wider "pay-as-you-go for all services" philosophy is absurd, most essential functions including road & public transportation as well as education would simply collapse under that approach which was NEVER intended by the Founders, but that's another story). This whole situation reminds me of a related issue in NJ years ago when Gov. Christie attacked DARPA's use of bridge tolls for other projects; that effectively killed the PATCO Glassboro light-rail extension at the time. In any case, i'm afraid the most sustainable scenario for SEPTA and other PA transit agencies is to establish a permanent TAX REVENUE stream from their host counties.
One last thing: don't forget that due to a quirky rule PennDOT is forced to siphon off vast revenues that could support transit, to fund state police protection for PA townships (like my own) that refuse to set up their own forces and rely on the state police for FREE coverage.
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby ChrisinAbington » Thu Mar 21, 2019 3:41 pm

More press:
Pa. Auditor: Legislature should end or cut $450 million Turnpike Commission transit payment to PennDot
http://www2.philly.com/news/pennsylvani ... 90321.html
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:38 pm

drinkatoast wrote:One last thing: don't forget that due to a quirky rule PennDOT is forced to siphon off vast revenues that could support transit, to fund state police protection for PA townships (like my own) that refuse to set up their own forces and rely on the state police for FREE coverage.
Could the county sheriff provide coverage in areas without local police?
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby rcthompson04 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 5:13 pm

R36 Combine Coach wrote:
drinkatoast wrote:One last thing: don't forget that due to a quirky rule PennDOT is forced to siphon off vast revenues that could support transit, to fund state police protection for PA townships (like my own) that refuse to set up their own forces and rely on the state police for FREE coverage.
Could the county sheriff provide coverage in areas without local police?



Most county sheriffs in Pennsylvania are incredibly weak.

This issue highlights the absurd level of antiquated governance in Pennsylvania. So much of the state’s funding regime was set up when rural PA was a larger portion of the state population. The ongoing school funding litigation fight is going to be an eye opening experience when the PA Supreme Court strikes down the 1990 baseline funding formula.
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby JeffK » Tue Mar 26, 2019 7:10 pm

rcthompson04 wrote:This issue highlights the absurd level of antiquated governance in Pennsylvania.

PA has something like 2625 separate administrative jurisdictions, supposedly more than any other state. Yet none of them are willing to give up their local control even if they're so small they're below the level of viability (You know who you are, Millbourne) That fragmentation monkey-wrenches everything from school funding to road building.
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Re: Almost 40 SEPTA projects on halt due to Pa. Turnpike Law

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Mar 27, 2019 2:35 pm

... but it provides jobs for countless officials and functionaries who are disinclined to change a system that works for them.
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