Region's transportation forecast for 2040 is dim

At work on a new Route 130 bridge over Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. Among bright spots in the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission report is a smooth interchange for I-295, I-76, and Route 42 in Camden County.
At work on a new Route 130 bridge over Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. Among bright spots in the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission report is a smooth interchange for I-295, I-76, and Route 42 in Camden County. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 27, 2013

By 2040, the Philadelphia region can expect about 600,000 more residents and 300,000 more jobs, but the Schuylkill Expressway won't be any wider and there won't be a rail line to King of Prussia.

I-95 will still be under construction.

The long-sought connection between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-95 will be a reality in Bucks County, and the obstacle course of I-295, I-76, and Route 42 in Camden County will finally be replaced with a smooth interchange.

The dingy City Hall subway concourse will be rehabbed, but the Glassboro-Camden light rail line won't be ready for riders, and SEPTA's Media-Elwyn extension to Wawa will still languish on the drawing boards.

That's the vision of the future outlined Thursday as the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission board approved its long-range plan for the nine-county region of Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

The DVRPC report, "Connections 2040," is a blueprint for the growth of the region. The agency, which decides how federal transportation money is spent in the Philadelphia region, is required to update its long-range plan every four years.

The bistate DVRPC board is made up of representatives of local and state governments and transportation agencies.

Constrained by an expected $64 billion shortfall in transportation funding from local, state, and federal sources, the long-range plan focuses on spending an anticipated $53 billion to maintain the existing transportation network instead of building new roads or transit lines.

Of 14 new rail and "rapid bus" projects, there is likely to be enough money for only three, and none is in Pennsylvania, said Michael Boyer, manager of long-range planning and economic coordination for the DVRPC.

The plan pins its hopes on technologies, such as driverless cars, technologically connected cars, and flexible traffic signals, to allow more cars on existing roads. Much of the focus is on eliminating bottlenecks to ease highway congestion.

The plan also calls for directing growth toward existing developed areas to limit sprawl and the demand for services. And it said greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 60 percent by 2040, compared with 2005 levels.

By 2040, the nine-county region is expected to be home to 6.26 million people, up 11 percent from the 5.6 million who lived here in 2010, the report said. Most of the growth is expected to occur in Gloucester (31 percent), Chester (30 percent), Bucks (16 percent), and Montgomery (12 percent) Counties, while Philadelphia is forecast to grow by about 7 percent, to 1.63 million people.

The plan says the deficit for highways, bridges, public transit, and airports will be greater in Pennsylvania because of its larger and older transportation network and lower taxes.

Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties will have $33 billion for $92 billion in needs, while Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Mercer Counties will have $19 billion for $25 billion in needs.

"The poor condition of the transportation system and the increasing backlog of unmet needs make it imperative that the region find a way to reduce the funding gap," the plan says. "Local funding for transportation capital projects in the region remains well below peer region averages.

"This . . . puts the region at a competitive disadvantage when compared to its peers across the nation and around the world."

The DRVPC report calls for greater spending by local governments to help fill the gap, but in many cases, local governments are limited in what they are legally permitted to do to raise money. Unlike regions in other states, for instance, they cannot levy local sales taxes for transportation.

The full report is available at www.dvrpc.org/Connections2040/.


Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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