Monday, April 12, 2004


U.S. Sen. Alren Specter (RINO*-Pa.) announced that he would seek $25 million in federal funding for the $chuylkill Valley rail line, the Inquirer reported on Saturday. Specter made the announcement at a meeting with officials, including Congressman James Gerlach (R-6th) and Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet). Despite talk of scaling back the concept of the gold-plated "MetroRail" between Philadelphia and Reading, Specter appears to have not gotten the message that the "MetroRail" alternative has already been rejected by the FTA:

Specter told elected officials at the Center City meeting to scout anew for local funds and determine how much economic impact MetroRail would have on the dozens of communities along the line.

The $49 million "is not chopped liver," Specter said yesterday. "We're going to keep pushing it."

Specter said he would seek $25 million for the rail line in the forthcoming six-year federal transportation spending plan, which could be finalized by late spring.

Meanwhile, as if we needed a reminder, SEPTA Board Member Thomas Jay Ellis (R-Montgomery County/Ballard Spahr) went out of his way to plug Specter's Republican primary battle against Congressman Pat Toomey (R-15th) while plugging $chuylkill Valley at the same time:

If the project costs $2 billion, the most optimistic scenario of 20 percent state and local contribution would mean $400 million for the project. Montgomery County Commissioner Tom Ellis said yesterday he would look for ways for Philadelphia and its surrounding counties to raise their share of the money. Local reluctance to raise taxes or develop funding proposals for transit has been one of MetroRail's many stumbling blocks.

"Maybe there are ways we can do it without costing taxpayers too much," said Ellis, who also sits on SEPTA's board.

Ellis, a Republican, called Specter's support for MetroRail "an example of why we need him. This project can't be built without a senator with his kind of clout."

In keeping with recent tradition, Fearless Leader has apparently decided not to comment on the project, instead, through SEPTA's Ministry of Mis-Information, punted to PennDOT:

SEPTA general manager Faye Moore attended yesterday's meeting. Her spokesman, Richard Maloney, referred all questions to Gerlach and Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler. ...

"The ball is in their court. The need for this railroad is obvious to everyone," Maloney said. "Where is the money going to come from to pay for it?

Three guesses, and the first two don't count. (A) The taxpayers; (B) the taxpayers; (C) the taxpayers.

"Specter has been the biggest proponent of this project since day one," Maloney added. "Obviously, he still has a lot of confidence in it."

That's more than what many of us can offer.

* - RINO = Republican In Name Only, as many people have noted that Specter doesn't exactly toe the GOP party line, which is probably why I plan to vote for Toomey, who at least is a real Republican, but that's another story...

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