WASHINGTON, DC – Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman today participated in a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing with Shailen Bhatt, Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which covers the design, construction, and maintenance of the nation’s roads.
Senator Fetterman used his time to discuss critical issues facing Pennsylvania, first focusing on the I-95 overpass collapse that occurred in Northeast Philadelphia on Sunday. Fetterman commended the quick delivery of $3 million in Emergency Relief funds and compared it to the swift response to the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse in Western Pennsylvania last year.
Following the collapse of I-95, a major local and regional artery, Senator Fetterman suggested SEPTA’s regional rail and subway lines could be critically useful tools to ease congestion and keep Philadelphia’s streets safe while the highway is closed for reconstruction. He asked Administrator Bhatt if Emergency Relief or other funds could help with SEPTA’s temporary operating costs to make transit a viable alternative for local travel.
Senator Fetterman also raised the issue of street safety, accusing the federal government of “dragging its feet in implementing expert advice for making streets safer.” With traffic rerouted onto the notoriously dangerous Roosevelt Boulevard following the I-95 overpass collapse, Pennsylvania’s streets are going to see even more traffic, further emphasizing the need for them to be addressed promptly and thoroughly.
Senator Fetterman has sent two letters in the last month expressing concerns about actions the federal government should be taking to make streets safer and the frustrating delays that have been witnessed. His letter to the FHWA addressed their failure to update the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control, key guidelines that could address rising fatalities and economic stagnation, while his letter to the Department of Transportation and Department of Justice regarded their sluggish finalization of street accessibility guidelines, which have been pending for 20 years. During his questioning, he pressed Administrator Bhatt on when to expect these actions to be finalized and if the FHWA will commit to working with him to address these concerns. Bhatt assured the Senator that safety is the FHWA’s number one priority and promised to follow up.