A FEW MONTHS ago, SEPTA officials were glumly pondering a doomsday budget plan that would've sliced 'n' diced the agency until it was a barely recognizable jack-o-lantern version of itself.

But at a board meeting yesterday afternoon, those same officials were positively giddy as they outlined an ambitious five- to 10-year capital-improvement program that will see many sorely needed repairs and upgrades finally come to fruition.

The agency also approved a final $1.28 billion budget for fiscal year 2014, which no longer has a projected $38 million shortfall, thanks to internal cost cuts.

A $2.3 billion transportation bill that state lawmakers approved last month will help to boost SEPTA's annual capital budget from the usual ballpark of $300 million to $600 million within five years, SEPTA deputy general manager Jeff Knueppel said.

Knueppel ran through the highlights of the capital improvement plan, dubbed "Catching Up," due to a $5 billion backlog of overdue repairs and improvements.

"This is an extremely exciting time, and a great opportunity," he said. "This really is the type of transformative situation that will poise SEPTA for the future, and really allow us to strengthen this five-county region to grow and prosper."

One portion of the plan calls for a major overhaul of vehicles, with new locomotives, bi-level coaches, trolleys and Silverliner VI railcars being added in three phases.

Bridge timbers that have been ravaged by time will be replaced on several viaducts on the Media/Elwyn Regional Rail Line.

Accessibility will be improved to subway stops on the Broad Street line at the Erie, Snyder and Susquehanna-Dauphin stations, the Market-Frankford line's Margaret-Orthodox and 40th Street stations, Knueppel said.

Repairs and, in some cases, makeovers, could be in order for concourses, including the 69th Street West Terminal and the sprawling underground labyrinth in Center City.

"We're hoping to actually be able to do a very signature project at City Hall," Knueppel said.

Exton, Levittown, Conshohocken, East Falls and Paoli are among the numerous railroad stations that will see facelifts under the plan, Knueppel said.

Depression-era railroad substations, maintenance facilities and trolley tracks are among the other items on the far-reaching improvement plan.

Knueppel said some of the projects could begin during the summer.

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