Philadelphia area gets $1 million for transit improvements, sidewalk repairs



(The Center Square) — The Philadelphia area will receive almost $1 million in federal grants targeted at impoverished neighborhoods to make transit safer and better connected.

The Federal Transit Administration announced Thursday that Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system will receive $500,000 and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission will receive $450,000 to plan and design system upgrades.

“Across the country, people who live in low-income rural, urban, and tribal communities are less likely to own a car and more likely to rely on public transit,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release. “Through this program, we are bringing affordable, accessible public transit to the very communities that need it the most, making it possible for more people to access jobs, resources, and opportunity.”

The grants are part of the FTA’s Areas of Persistent Poverty program to expand transportation options. The two grants are part of $20 million awarded nationally.

Before any construction begins, however, both groups plan to conduct studies.

SEPTA will focus on a 3.65-mile residential, commercial and institutional corridor of Erie Avenue between Hunting Park and Kensington Avenues in North Philadelphia, according to its grant proposal.

“Served by both the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines and numerous bus routes, improving safety and efficiency along this vital corridor has been a priority for the city of Philadelphia,” the proposal says. “The study area is designated as a high-injury segment – part of the 12% of Philadelphia streets where 50% of all traffic deaths and severe injuries happen.”

SEPTA will evaluate bus stop spacing, service patterns, and intersection design along the corridor, among other changes.

The study carried out by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission will be broader, focused on sidewalk projects across the Greater Philadelphia region to connect people with transit.

“Making the best use of our existing transportation infrastructure requires people being able to access it,” commission Executive Director Ariella Maron said. “People being able to access it safely requires sidewalks that are well-maintained.”

The commission, responsible for long-term planning of the Philadelphia region, will lead the sidewalk process for areas that don’t have the resources to do so.

“The beauty of this program is it’s actually a really efficient way of doing this,” Maron said. “It’s more efficient if we centralize this process. We’re able to achieve efficiency, reduce duplication, and ensure the right federal design requirements are captured by doing this centrally for the communities that are most in need of this type of support.”

Figuring out which sidewalks need repairs or where more should get built might seem small, but the commission says it’s an overlooked issue.

“It’s very easy to take for granted the important roles that sidewalks play in how they connect us to work, to transit, and to each other,” Maron said. “And we take it for granted until it’s not in a state of good repair. While improving sidewalks alone doesn’t address all of our issues of allowing people to feel safe in walking to transit, it is a really important piece of it.”

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