Monday night Parkesburg Borough officials reported that they recently learned that the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has removed funding for the West Bridge Street and State Street Bridge projects from its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP.)During Monday night's regular council meeting council said that the borough will work with county and state legislators in order to try to get the projects re-funded. In addition, the borough is trying to persuade DVRPC to amend its TIP so that the projects can continue to move forward. (This TIP is for years 2009-2012 meaning that, if the projects are not reinstated, there will be no funding available for the project through DVRPC through 2012.)
In an effort to persuade the agency to put the project back on the TIP, Borough Manager Jim Thomas had made a presentation at DVRPC's May 14 hearing. That presentation included information from the borough's safety agencies stating that the current situation of only two connections between the two sides of the borough divided by the railroad tracks was a hindrance to emergency response.
According to the borough solicitor, the reason given for the removal of funding was that the DVRPC seemed to have the impression that the borough and Amtrak was at a stalemate regarding the projects.
"I don't know where that idea came from," Carnes said.
After years of back-and-forth about who was responsible for what aspect of the projects with the various bureaucracies involved, the borough had, two years ago, gotten to the point where they went so far as to budget the borough's share of some of the funding for the projects. This year's budget includes a $35,000 budget item allocated to the State Street Bridge Project, as well as $8,000 in engineering fees allocated to both bridge projects.
The State Street Bridge, which has been closed since the mid-1970's, is the farthest along as far as planning goes. The superstructure of the bridge was removed in 1999, and all that remains to be done is remove the abutments on both sides of the bridge, remove the wing walls on the south side, and profile down State Street. During the planning process, the borough eliminated work in the Amtrak right-of-way in an effort to expedite the project.
The West Bridge Street Bridge, which was closed in 1994, is slated to be demolished and replaced with a three-span bridge made of pre-stressed concrete beams. The new bridge will be 26 feet wide, with a sidewalk and protective aluminum barriers topped with protective fencing on each side. Also part of the project is the construction of a two-and-a-half foot retaining wall for the sidewalk on the southeast side of the bridge, which is necessitated by an embankment of the same height, and there are to be steps going from the sidewalk down to the front yards of the townhouses on that side of the bridge. That project was estimated at $5 million, of which the borough is to pay $250,000.
Both projects require a construction agreement between the borough and PennDOT, however an agreement between the borborough and PennDOT, however, an agreement between the borough and Amtrak is also needed for the West Bridge Street bridge project.
Carnes indicated Monday that the Amtrak agreement, which was thought to be in stalemate by the DVRPC, was somewhat of a sticking point because according to Amtrak's policy, municipalities embarking on such projects were required to pay Amtrak a non-refundable fee of $35,000 as "insurance," and part of that agreement would also stipulate that the borough was to assume the first $100,000 of liability if environmental issues arose during construction.
Council decided its next move would be to send a copy of the presentation made to DVRPC to federal legislators in an effort to encourage them to help the borough get the project re-funded.