Up­per Dublin hop­ing to keep $1M in fund­ing from fed­eral high­way ear­mark

The Ambler Gazette - - OPINION - By Linda Finarelli

Up­per Dublin would like to get $1 mil­lion in fed­eral high­way funds ap­proved for a rail­road bridge re­place­ment redi­rected to an­other project.

The $1 mil­lion is part of a na­tion­wide $473 mil­lion in un­spent ear­marks —$29 mil­lion for Penn­syl­va­nia — ap­proved in fed­eral 20032006 fis­cal year ap­pro­pri­a­tions acts be­ing re­leased by the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to a White House press re­lease.

While the pres­i­dent is against ear­marks, the ap­pro­pri­a­tions acts “con­tain pro­vi­sions that au­tho­rize the [U.S. trans­porta­tion] sec- re­tary to make the un­used funds avail­able for el­i­gi­ble sur­face trans­porta­tion projects,” the re­lease states.

As of Aug. 17, the state de­part­ments of trans­porta­tion have un­til Oct. 1 to iden­tify el­i­gi­ble high­way, tran­sit, pas­sen­ger rail or port projects for which they would like to use the un­spent ear­marks, ac­cord­ing to the re­lease. The funds must be ob­li­gated for the projects by Dec. 31 of this year.

The $1 mil­lion ear­mark to re­place the Nor­folk South­ern Bridge at Susque­hanna Road and Limekiln Pike in Up­per Dublin is un­likely to be used for that project, as the cost es­ti­mate to widen the bridge and road­way be­neath it was orig­i­nally about $12 mil­lion, Town­ship Man­ager Paul Leonard said Aug. 27.

“If the cost [dif­fer­ence] is $11 mil­lion, I don’t see that hap­pen­ing,” Leonard said.

Traf­fic dur­ing rush hour of­ten bot­tle­necks be­low the 1920s vin­tage stone train bridge due to its nar­row, twolane width at the junc­tion of Susque­hanna and Limekiln, both main thor­ough­fares that tra­verse through Up­per Dublin.

Among fac­tors im­pact­ing pos­si­ble re­place­ment of the bridge are the fact that the rail line, re­ferred to as the Tren­ton cut­off, is crit­i­cal to com­merce and can­not be shut down, and “sig­nif­i­cant prop­erty ac­qui­si­tions” would be re­quired, Leonard said.

When the rail­road had to re­place a bridge in the Route 309 re­con­struc­tion project, a com­plete tem­po­rary bridge had to be built out of wood “be­cause you can’t shut the line,” he said.

There is also new de­vel­op­ment in the area ad­ja­cent to the bridge “that might not be easy to work around,” he said, and the “$1 mil­lion would not even cover the cost of per­mit­ting and engi­neer­ing.”

Leonard said he would pre­fer to see the money go into the Fort Wash­ing­ton Of­fice Park road­ways, which are es­ti­mated to cost about $34 mil­lion to re­build.

The roads in the of­fice park were iden­ti­fied as fed­eral aid high­ways and ap­proved for fed­eral fund­ing since the early 1980s, he said, but no fed­eral money — which would come through the Penn­syl­va­nia Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion — has been al­lo­cated for the project.

Leonard was not ini­tially hope­ful of get­ting the money for the of­fice park road­ways.

Up­per Dublin “just got $11.8 mil­lion” in a state H20 grant to build two dams to help al­le­vi­ate flood­ing in the of­fice park, “and I ex­pect that’s the last we’ll see in a while,” he said.

Leonard said, how­ever, he would ask fed­eral and state of­fi­cials to see if it could be done.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the of­fice of U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-13, told Leonard in an email that the state will get to de­cide what projects get the un­spent ear­marks, but added, “Con- gress­woman Schwartz will work to en­sure that area lo­cal­i­ties re­ceive ev­ery ap­pro­pri­ate con­sid­er­a­tion for this fund­ing.”

The projects Pen­nDOT will ap­prove the fund­ing for has not yet been de­ter­mined.

“Right now the depart­ment is work­ing on the de­tails, as far as the in­flux of fed­eral fund­ing and how it will be ap­plied,” Pen­nDOT spokesman Gene Blaum said Aug. 28, not­ing the an­nounce­ment re­gard­ing the fed­eral funds had only been made about 10 days prior. “It’s do­ing an anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine ex­actly how it will be used.”

The de­ci­sion will likely come in the next cou­ple of weeks, in light of the Oct. 1 dead­line, he said.

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