SEPTA's capital budget funds buses, trains, bridges, and more money for the Key card

SEPTA proposed a $727.23 million capital budget Monday, with money for rail cars, buses, bridges, and an expansion of the smart fare card that last week was fully rolled out for city transit riders.

For fans of SEPTA Key, the card designed to replace tokens and passes as the transportation authority’s sole fare tool, this budget includes $99 million in fiscal year 2018 to install Key readers throughout the Regional Rail system. After years of delays, Key is fully available now for city transit users, and the budget’s commitment means by next year all Regional Rail stations should have the equipment in place to use the fare card.

The largest single expenditure in the budget would go to vehicles, about $241.6 million. That includes about $98 million for new buses, among them 25 fully electric buses to be delivered in the coming fiscal year and 525 hybrid buses expected to be delivered through 2021. That hefty budget for vehicles will also contribute $51 million toward new electric locomotives expected in 2018. Last week, SEPTA ordered 45 multilevel rail cars for $137.5 million, the cars the new locomotives will pull.

In infrastructure, $9.6 million will go to a $181.85 million 12-year bridge restoration project that, in the near term, will see improvements to the seven Mainline-Schuylkill Bridges between 30th Street Station and Suburban Station built in 1929 and to another seven stone-arch bridges on the Lansdale/Doylestown, Media/Elwyn, and West Trenton Regional Rail lines. Two communications projects costing a combined $67 million between 2018 and 2022 will upgrade SEPTA’s dispatch system and vehicle locators to provide riders with real-time information about vehicles’ locations.

SEPTA’s capital budget for FY 2018, if approved, would be an almost $180 million increase over the previous year. About 48 percent of the capital budget, $351.7 million, comes from state funding. An additional $213.5 million comes from federal sources, with $150 million coming from SEPTA’s capital financing and $11.7 million from local sources. Ambitious transit projects take time, so much of the FY 2018 budget would confirm pieces of funding for projects that will be years in the making. SEPTA’s 12-year plan includes $7.3 billion in projects.

One of the bigger projects is the City Hall and 15th Street Station improvement, which will upgrade the stop’s appearance, redesign the layout, and make it handicapped accessible. This budget would devote $19 million to the work. The total project is expected to cost nearly $146.5 million through 2023.

SEPTA is upgrading stations throughout the Regional Rail system. The Paoli, Exton, and Levittown stations are slated for face-lifts that will, among other things, make them fully accessible to people with disabilities. They are getting a combined $27.3 million in the coming fiscal year, with the first phases of construction expected to conclude this year or next. When completed, the projects will ultimately cost about $180.9 million combined. Projects to make stations handicapped accessible at East Falls, Jenkintown-Wyncote, Secane, Ardmore, Willow Grove, and Yardley are also to be completed in the coming years. Conshohocken Station is also among those slated for improvements, with a $15 million plan to give the stop a more formal station feel by 2020.

Public hearings will be held on the budget April 26, with sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the Boardroom at SEPTA Headquarters, 1234 Market St., Philadelphia. Comments can be submitted online. SEPTA’s board will vote on the budget on May 25.