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Public transportation agencies throughout the nation are facing a $78 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects, the administrator of the Federal Transit Administration announced at a May 18 event in Boston.
In his keynote speech at "Next Stop: A Summit on the Future of Transit," Federal Transit Administrator Peter M. Rogoff explained that the figure is part of a new report to be released in the near future, which covers 690 U.S. rail and bus systems. This report follows a 2009 study of the seven largest U.S. rail operators, which showed a $50 billion figure for bringing the systems into a state of good repair—not, he emphasized, restoring them to pristine new condition.
"Our transit systems must be safe, reliable, and efficient," Rogoff said. "I know transit riders will not put up with dirty stations, unreliable service, slowed train speeds, inoperable escalators—especially those who have other options. We need to attract and maintain riders, not push them back onto the highway."
He emphasized the Obama administration’s support for keeping the nation’s public transportation systems efficient and maintained, and asked for a similar commitment from participants in the summit. "Clearly, unless we can bring the nation’s transit systems into a state of good repair, we won’t get the riders we need to cut oil consumption and greenhouse gases; the sustainability of our transit systems will be in jeopardy; and the economic vitality of our cities will be undermined," he added.
"If you can’t afford to operate the system you have, why does it make sense for us to partner in your expansion?" Rogoff said. "Might it make more sense for us to roll up our sleeves and target our resources on repairing the system we have?"
The summit sponsors were the MBTA Advisory Board, MassInc., Harvard’s Rappaport Institute, and the 128 Business Council.