Sunday, October 31, 2004


The editorial board of the Phoenix newspaper of Phoenixville (not to be confused with the Swarthmore College publication of the same name) recently asked Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-6th) and Democratic challenger Lois "Sponsored by out of towners such as" Murphy about the highly controversial $chuylkill Valley rail corridor that SEPTA has completely bungled much like the hated Yankees bungled that 3-0 lead against my beloved Red Sox (now, if only the Iggles can win a Super Bowl, then this would be a very good year for me). The Phoenix asked this question of both candidates:

How high of a priority is the proposed Schuylkill Valley Metro train line from Philadelphia to Reading?

First, Congressman Gerlach's response:

Really, really high. It's one of my most important projects I've been working on. Maybe contrary to what (Murphy) said, if I didn't get the task force formed six months ago to keep the dialogue going on this proposal, it probably would be dead by now. I wrote to Gov. Rendell asking him to be involved in this task force. He assigned PennDOT Secretary Beiler to chair it, and it's made up of himself, me and the SEPTA consultants. We've been working on way to bring the $2.5 billion project [down to] a level of about $800 million, which is really where we need to be if we're going to be competitive with other new-start mass-transit projects around the country. So, if she made comment somehow that I'm not involved then she really doesn't have her facts right, because I'm intimately involved with the project. I was also able, in the House Transportation Authorization Bill, to get the project put on what's called final construction authorization, which has to be in place to get the final OK by the Federal Transit Administration to move forward. I've not only been working here locally with state government to come up with local authorities to come up with the right proposal. I've also come up with the project in the final construction project of the highway authorization bill that is now in conference committee between the House and Senate. It's a huge project of importance and among the communities along the corridor - Norristown, Phoenixville, Pottstown, Reading and Wyomissing. It's important to employers to better connect with employees in the region and hopefully get some traffic congestion alleviated along the 422 and 202 corridors.

Now, Murphy's response:

It's a very high priority for me and for the people of this region, and it's a great disappointment that the current fiscal and budgetary policies in Washington have not resulted in adequate federal funds being applied to promote this very important investment in our local infrastructure.
Murphy is apparently oblivious to the fact that it was SEPTA who wanted a $2 billion gold-plated rail line masquerading as a glorified "trolley" instead of a rational rail proposal. Fortunately, Congressman Gerlach at least realizes that $2 billion was way too much for the line.

On a related question, both candidates were asked about widening the US 422 corridor between the interchange with US 202 and I-76 in Tredyffrin to the end of the 422 expressway in Berks County. The candidates invoked the $chuylkill Valley rail line in their responses. First, the Congressman speaks:

I haven't seen any particular plans to do that. If at the end of the day, through the metropolitan highway process, that is listed by Montgomery County and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission as one of the top projects, I'd support it. But quite frankly, I haven't seen any specific proposals to do that. There is more interest in the creation of the Schuylkill Valley Metro to help alleviate some the congestion. That's not to say, with the continued growth in the western part of the county, along with Berks County, that that project will not necessarily someday. It very well may be. Right now there are no specific plans being put forward. It's not a plan that's at a high level on any priority list. I try to focus on the projects that everybody had agreed we need to do and those are the things we try to pursue funding for. They've already been vetted by the local, county and regional people and they say, "Yep, that's the priority that they have," and that seems like the priority that we have to follow upon.
Murphy's response to the question:

If we had the Schuylkill Valley Metro, we might not have to answer that question. And again, that's probably ultimately going to be a state decision and require the analysis from the state both on the highway consequences and on the environmental consequences. I have sufficient experience to understand the need to reduce traffic or to expand the ability to travel. I don't have enough information to evaluate whether and how it could be expanded. The Phoenix
Of course, as I am apt to remind anyone who will listen (which apparently doesn't include the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market), we could've had rail service operating between at least Phoenixville and Center City if SEPTA hadn't come up with this stupid "MetroRail" concept.

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