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July 31, 2014, 3:26 am

City gets $10M transit grant from feds

Philadelphia will receive a $10 million federal grant to upgrade aging traffic signals, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Mayor Michael Nutter announced Thursday.

“We’re replacing about 100, forty-year-old traffic controllers with the latest fiber-optic technology,” Nutter said, noting that the entire project will cost about $20 million.

The remainder of the funding will come from the city, state and SEPTA.

New signals will include technology that prioritizes movement by buses and trolleys, extending a green light when a bus or trolley is detected. Other improvements include upgrades to handicap curb cuts, pedestrian countdown signals and other improvements for pedestrians and people with disabilities.

Among the city’s top targets, traffic lights on Woodland Avenue in the Southwest and at Bustleton and Castor Avenues in the Northeast.

“The money for these upgrades will improve the commutes for 92,000 drivers, transit riders and pedestrians,” said Nutter. “Reinvesting in and maintaining our infrastructure is key to improving Philadelphia. The Administration understands that cities and municipalities cannot wait for Congress to get the job done.”

Philadelphia was one of 40 cities receiving a federal TIGER grant to fund traffic flow improvements, LaHood said, adding that communities across the country requested a total of $14 billion from about $500,000 in available funds.

Those figures pointed to the need for Congress to act on a transportation bill, LaHood said, during a routine announcement that quickly turned political.

“The overwhelming demand for these grants clearly shows that communities across the country can’t afford to wait any longer for Congress to put Americans to work building the transportation projects that are critical to our economic future,” LaHood said. “That’s why we’ve taken action to get these grants out the door quickly, and that is why we will continue to ask Congress to make the targeted investments we need to create jobs, repair our nation’s transportation systems, better serve the traveling public and our nation’s businesses, factories and farms, and make sure our economy continues to grow.”

President Barack Obama has been pressing Congress to pass a transportation bill — part of his jobs bill — for several months. After the Senate blocked Obama’s larger $447 billion jobs bill in October, the White House announced that it would try and get several components of the bill passed individually.

The president touts transportation projects as a practical bipartisan way to put people to work. Administration estimates suggest that his bill would put more than 1 million unemployed construction workers back on the job.

In several speeches Obama has said the nation’s aging transportation network costs U.S. businesses and families about $130 billion a year. Failing to upgrade the network could cost the U.S. hundreds of billions dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs by the end of the decade.

But, the legislation has been uniformly opposed by Republicans and a few Democrats who object to any new spending and to the president’s plan for a new tax on the wealthy to help pay for it.

LaHood took the opportunity Thursday to remind voters of that fact saying that Congress’s intransigence was unprecedented.

“Here we are in the waning days of a Congress that has done nothing to put friends and neighbors to work,” he said. “And, has done nothing to pass a transportation bill. Republicans have stymied the opportunity to put friends and neighbors to work.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact Tribune staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .