Southeast Pennsylvania would get about $115 million for critical projects in a massive transportation bill the U.S. House passed Thursday.
They include safety improvements for the deadly Cobbs Creek Parkway in Southwest Philadelphia, accessibility fixes for disabled people at the Erie Avenue Station on the Broad Street Line and the Regional Rail station in Marcus Hook; bike lanes; and road and bridge repairs.
“We’ve got a huge opportunity after a long time talking,” said U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, Democrat from Philadelphia, noting that infrastructure is having a political moment. “All the pieces are falling into place for Philly, Pennsylvania and the nation.”
Though the projects involve rails and roads, the bill is not part of the bipartisan infrastructure-spending framework that President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans negotiated recently. Rather, the House legislation would authorize for another five years federal surface-transportation programs that send money to states and localities for transit and highways.
The measure did not include financing, and money would have to be appropriated later. Democrats said the $715 million bill was close in size to the bipartisan agreement, though it is a bit more weighted to transit.
“They’re within shouting distance,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “I believe we could work out the spending levels” and use the policy language in the bill as part of an eventual infrastructure package.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, who requested $17.2 million in projects for his district, was one of just two Republicans voting yes Thursday.
Five people were killed and 14 seriously injured in traffic crashes on Cobbs Creek Parkway between 2014 and 2018, according to city figures. It is among the 12% of Philadelphia streets that city transportation officials say are responsible for 80% of traffic deaths and serious injuries. It’s a winding road that separates Philadelphia from Delaware County, with 33 intersections and few traffic controls or amenities for pedestrians.
Cobbs Creek Parkway is “one of the most dangerous corridors in our region, and it’s the site of hundreds of crashes and multiple fatalities, year after year,” said Rep. Mary Scanlon, a Democrat whose district includes Delaware County and parts of Philadelphia. She and Evans teamed up to get a $2 million earmark for traffic controls, crosswalks and other safety measures there.
To Evans, the bill was an opportunity to begin to address the disproportionate number of traffic deaths and injuries in poor neighborhoods and communities of color. In addition to the parkway, Evans also got money for “traffic calming” projects in Mantua, on Chestnut Street and Parkside Avenue in West Philadelphia.
He teamed with Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Philadelphia Democrat, to secure $7.2 million in funding toward retrofitting Nicetown’s Erie Station on the Broad Street Line to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We’re trying to invest in these communities that historically haven’t had much investment,” said Evans, speaking of the three members of the House representing Philadelphia.