Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
Over the next five years, money from President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will be headed to transit authorities across the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania airports will receive an additional $355 million over the next five years from the bill, which will provide funds to help pay for upgrades to the airlines, buses, and trains many residents rely on.
The funding comes at a critical time for transit authorities. Public transportation ridership dropped dramatically during 2020 due to COVID19, leading to reductions in bus and rail services across Pennsylvania. Regional transit authorities have been trying to bring services back up to pre-pandemic levels, with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) planning to reach 96% of pre-pandemic bus service during 2022. The money from the IIJA will be an important piece of solving some of the budget deficits caused by COVID19.
The White House also noted that Pennsylvanians who take public transit to work spend nearly 70% longer commuting than those who drive. This has an oversized impact on the households of Black and Indigenous residents, as well as all people of color, who are five times more likely to ride public transit than their white counterparts.
For the Wilkes Barre Scranton area, the infrastructure bill means more than $2 million for the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS) and close to $2.5 million for the Wilkes Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP). AVP Executive Director Carl R. Beardsley, Jr. said that “these funds will assist airport management with necessary terminal, runway and access improvements.” While it is still undecided what COLTS plans to do with their funding, Senator Bob Casey spoke to officials on how they could use the money to benefit senior citizens in the area.