Thursday, January 22, 2009

LETTER: Will F&M / LGH await funding before breaking ground?

"'After F&M was denied their $9.2 million funding request from PennDOT, they submitted a request for funds from the Federal Railroad Administration,' according to a newsletter currently appearing on the web site of the Rail Road Action & Advisory Committee (TRRAAC). The newsletter stated that the FRA will begin granting projects sometime before the end of March.

"F&M wants this money to construct a new rail yard in a grass-covered field that formerly was used as a city dump and contains an unknown amount of Armstrong asbestos products. F&M’s own construction schedule shows that that construction was to have begun in November, 2008. F&M recently announced that the work will begin mid-January.

"A question that has yet to be asked by the Lancaster press, that has the reputation of being pro-F&M, is this: Will F&M begin the excavation of the dump before the Federal Railway Administration has approved its funding request? If the FRA turns down F&M’s request, as PennDOT has done, will F&M still proceed with the excavation of the landfill site?

"If so, how will the funding shortfall be made up? Will it be made by the project partners (F&M, LGH and Norfolk Southern) or by the taxpayer? The project partners have promised to pay a total of $14 million. The remaining $32 million will be paid with taxpayer dollars. Governor Rendell has already committed $10 million of taxpayer money to the excavation of the dump site.

"Why is TRRAAC's alternative site not being considered, even though it was researched and has the endorsement of a senior railroad engineering consultant who is a former Norfolk Southern engineer! There is no landfill to be excavated on this alternative site and thus the $10 million given to F&M by Governor Rendell could be returned to the state treasury to be used for highway and bridge repairs or other needed projects.

"F&M plans to use the present Rail Yard for its athletic fields once the rail tracks are moved. Thus F&M will be the primary beneficiary of the largely tax-funded project. The losers will be the residents of the School Lane Hills and Barrcrest neighborhoods, whose quality of life and property values will be diminished by having their homes in proximity to a noisy rail yard, whose size and scope of operations could be increased at any time without taxpayer knowledge or approval."