SEPTA gets $10 million grant for South Philly bus loops

Septa bus_03
SEPTA is negotiating with TWU Local 234 ahead of the union contract’s Oct. 31 expiration.
Metro file

Two new end-of-the-line bus loops are coming to South Philadelphia thanks to a $9.8 million federal grant awarded to SEPTA last week.

The facilities, which will include an area for buses to turn around along with a shelter and benches, will be constructed at 3rd Street and Oregon Avenue and near Pier 70, by the shopping district at Christopher Columbus Boulevard and Snyder Avenue.

A combined nine routes culminate at the two sites, serving about 65,000 people a day before COVID-19 dramatically slashed public transit ridership.

Federal funds will cover 80% of the project’s total cost, which is estimated at $12.25 million, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch told Metro.

“We had the project in our long-term capital budget, but it wasn’t clear exactly when we would be able to move ahead on it,” Busch said. “So the grant is definitely a catalyst for moving this work forward.”

Further information on a timeline for the project should be released in April in SEPTA’s proposed capital budget for the next fiscal year, Busch added.

Bus routes G, 7, 29, 64 and 79, all of which travel east-west, start and end near Pier 70, while the north-south routes 25, 47, 47M and 57 will use the 3rd and Oregon loop.

The loops give buses dedicated space to turn around, which is safer than maneuvering in traffic or parking lots.

“Right now, it’s kind of a patchwork of solutions that we have to have for these buses to turn around in these spots,” Busch said.

Since SEPTA leases property for buses to turn around, the authority will save money in the long-run after building the bus loops.

Each facility will also have a bathroom exclusively for bus drivers, and the stops will be disability-accessible with improved lighting and signage.

SEPTA representatives said the loops will dovetail with the authority’s Bus Revolution initiative, a years-long project to rethink and redesign the city’s bus system.

The Biden administration dispersed $409.3 million last week through the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program (GBBFP), and the South Philadelphia bus loops were one of 70 projects in 39 states to receive funding.

Federal officials said 303 eligible applications seeking $2.5 billion were submitted as part of the grant process.

Next time around, more cash will likely be available. Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure legislation allocated $5.1 billion to GBBFP to spend over the next five years.

On Thursday, SEPTA’s board is expected to approve a plan to use $95 million from the infrastructure bill this year to advance key long-term projects, including modernizing the region’s trolley system and making more Broad Street Line stations accessible.

The authority is slated to receive more than $500 million in direct funding from the infrastructure plan over the coming years, and it could access additional money through competitive grants.