The Mother Of Invention

Repairs on a section of I-95 have led to discussions about the necessity of expanding SEPTA. This should be interesting.

If you’re a transportation afficionado, there’s a show streaming right now that’s probably right up your alley.

On the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s website — — you can watch construction on a fairly significant chunk of I-95.

On Sunday, truck driver Nathan Moody lost control of the oil tanker he was driving, and died when the oil-filled truck blew up. In addition to the loss of life, the northbound and southbound lanes of I-95 near the Cottman Avenue exit folded into themselves and left the kind of hole that Batman might jump over in the Batmobile.

This “show” that is rebuilding the highway promises to be on the air for at least two months, which means that going from South Philadelphia to the Northeast is going to be a bit of a challenge for the foreseeable future.

SEPTA, or the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, has promised to help by adding additional cars on the Regional Rail Line.

In fact, this hole in the road has led to a discussion of expanding SEPTA overall.

During Thursday’s City Council meeting, City Councilmember Mike Driscoll introduced a resolution calling on the Committee on Transportation to hold public hearings discussing the possibility of expanding the Broad Street Line into the Northeast, along Roosevelt Boulevard.

It’s not a bad idea. I can think of few things I like less than driving on the Roosevelt Boulevard, which is why I only go to the Northeast when I absolutely have to. Being able to take such a trip without having to fight traffic on the only road where you might find yourself stuck in traffic due to someone channeling their inner “Fast and the Furious” during rush hour is a win/win for everyone.

But the hurdles facing it aren’t insignificant.

For one thing, SEPTA itself isn’t really interested. Because the authority has a cash flow problem, has a bunch of unmet infrastructure needs, and doesn’t get a lot of funding from Philadelphia and the suburbs to add to the little bit of money it gets from the state, the extension is a non-starter, Leslie Richards, SEPTA’s CEO and general manager told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Also, SEPTA has a staffing problem. One of the reasons why the authority’s promise of help to offset the traffic caused by the I-95 issue has been looked at with a bit of skepticism is because regional rail line service has been curtailed at times due to a lack of available staff. Apparently, when compared to rail services like New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, SEPTA doesn’t pay as well. Thus, conductors are leaving the Authority to go to other places and hundreds of positions remain unfilled.

State Rep. Joe Hohenstein recently introduced a bill that would allow Philadelphia and other counties to create local taxes for transportation needs. Considering Pennsylvania’s attitude toward taxes, I’m not optimistic about this. Although, since the state has billions in American Rescue Plan funding it’s sitting on, sending some SEPTA’s way to solve this problem brought on by an interstate highway collapse might be a good idea.

But no matter what the solution ultimately is, we need to find one as a region because there’s no guaranteeing that the I-95 repair show that’s playing on the PennDOT website won’t get another season in another section of interstate.

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