Friday, January 4, 2013

Doomsday is Coming


Doomsday is coming. Not in the time that Harold Camping predicted or due to the misinterpretation of the Mayan Long Count calendar. Rather its the failing infrastructure that SEPTA has and the inaction of legislators at the state and federal level to provide the needed additional funding. Over the years I have lived in several cities, some with extensive rapid transit systems others with nominal or none what so ever.

Its been long known that SEPTA is operating many of its power substations and tracks that its trains and trolleys run on are substandard. Unfortunately due to severe underfunding SEPTA is no longer able to use temporary fixes and has to resort to more drastic measures. Repair is not an option, shutting things down is. The first sign of the oncoming apocalypse is the 101-year-old Bridgeport Viaduct, which allows the Norristown High Speed Line to cross into Philadelphia.

Time and 2400 passengers per day has taken a toll on the bridge; the ties are so rotted that the spikes that hold the rails in place have been glued down to prevent them from pulling loose. This summer the bridge will be permanently closed as the glue will not hold the spikes in place and the corrosion of the steel framework and concrete foundations will be to much. In order to repair the bridge SEPTA will need 30 million dollars that they don't have.

Regrettably this is the tip of the iceberg. This needed repair is just one of 5 billion dollars in repairs that includes power substations, failing bridges, and other systems. Worse yet the funds that are needed to make these repairs come from state and federal transportation bills and since much of the country uses highway as a primary mode of transportation. What most of these legislators cannot grasp is that there is a greater concentration of population in major cities that rely primarily on public transportation. The fact that SEPTA has to allow system failures to occur and reduce services is appalling. Short of another bridge failure like the Minneapolis bridge collapse in 2007, this will only get worse.

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