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Legacy System Leaders: Confronting SGR Shortfalls

Representatives of legacy rail systems described their efforts to deal with the funding shortfall they face when they spoke at “Nearing the Breaking Point—Investment Needs at America’s Rail Systems,” the June 21 luncheon General Session.

Dorval R. Carter Jr., president, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), who noted that parts of his system date to the 1890s, said the current effort to achieve state of good repair is CTA’s largest capital investment in its history. He said if the effort is to continue, it requires “a push for more stable long-term federal funding” and strong local leadership.

Jeffrey D. Knueppel, general manager, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), noted that the Philadelphia agency was “born in bankruptcy” following the collapse of earlier rail systems. State Act 89—passed in 2013—provided enough funding to rebuild a line that dated to 1854, he said, but eliminating the system’s backlog will still take 20 years.

John J. Haley Jr., director of transit for the 104-year-old San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), stressed the support of the community and local leadership for this “vitally important” service. SFMTA has learned from previous procurements and industry outreach, he said, leading to a renewal of the rail and bus fleet, transit priority lanes and the city’s first multimodal transportation center.

Mike Palmer, deputy chief executive officer, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), said his agency is coping with numerous issues, including railcars that must be built specifically to fit TTC’s unique gauge, limited combined funding from all levels of government (92 cents from a $3.25 (Cdn.) fare), lack of proper drainage leading to track ­damage, asbestos abatement and a signaling system from 1954 for which replacement parts are not available.

Moderator Nuria I. Fernandez, general manager, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, said the shortfalls are a result of public transit being “a victim of its own success.” Lack of available funding leads to deferred repairs, she said, and the addition of new projects (such as the coming expansion of BART into Santa Clara County) compounds the problem.

Kiewit and APTA co-sponsored the lunch session.

Luncheon speakers, from left: moderator Nuria Fernandez, Dorval Carter Jr., Jeffrey Knueppel, John Haley Jr. and Mike Palmer.
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