Rendell rode to the rescue of SEPTA by revealing some kind of "federal windfall
" that will keep the transit system solvent until 2007!
Rendell was expected this week to transfer $68 million in highway money to float struggling transit agencies. Of that, SEPTA expected $42.5 million to rescue riders from a 20 percent service cut and a fare hike of 25 percent threatened to begin Sunday.
Rendell instead surprised everyone with a transfer of $412 million to stabilize transit agencies until 2007.
That is a pretty big development to have arrived on the heels of so much discussion of stop-gap measures
. No mention was made of these funds in Rendell's recent budget, although they were apparently released to him on Feb. 4 -- as a result, Republican lawmakers appear furious. Perhaps as a bone to them, Rendell promised some oversight:
By executive order, Rendell created a nine-person "Transportation Funding and Reform Commission" to audit how SEPTA runs and suggest new means for long-term funding.
He also put SEPTA employees on notice that they'd best not take anything for granted when the next round of contract negotiations comes around:
Rendell warned SEPTA's largest union, whose contract expires in two weeks, that a city transit strike on the heels of such largesse would not bode well for permanent funding relief from state lawmakers.
All very interesting. Good news, but strange maneouvers....