Work on a railroad crossing at the entrance of the Packerton Business Park along Route 209 in Mahoning Township may begin by spring, officials said.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board approved a supplemental reimbursement agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for funding relative to the business park's railroad crossing project. The total amount in the agreement is $500,000.
Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, explained that the action amends a past agreement for the railroad crossing.
"What the reimbursement agreement does is it removes the use of any federal monies and guidelines and replaces it with state monies," he said. "The $500,000 that we will be getting to make it a public crossing will all be PennDOT money."
The $500,000 PennDOT grant the county will be using was secured by Speaker of the House Keith McCall in December 2008.
O'Gurek also pointed out that the county also received correspondence from the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission giving the county permission to change the private crossing into a public crossing.
"We have the order that confirms that we are allowed to change the private crossing to a public crossing," he said. "This was an agreed petition that went to PUC. In the petition, it states that Norfolk Southern and Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern railroads (the owners of the two rail lines on the property) would design the crossing, including signal circuitry, flashing lights and the crossing itself. The order gives them six months from the time of the order from the PUC to do the design and then six months after that to complete construction. They are aware of it and are working on it already."
O'Gurek said that he believes construction on that crossing will begin sometime in the spring.
The railroad crossing at the entrance to Packerton Business Park will include the installation of flashing light warning signals and automatic crossing gates; as well as surface improvements and the installation of a sewer line across the tracks to connect to the existing sewer main.
The industrialization of the 59-acre former Packerton Yards site, which stretches between Mahoning Township and Lehighton, has been in the works since 2002, when Commissioner Charles Getz and O'Gurek included the project as part of their campaign.
On Feb. 25, 2005, the county purchased the site from Joseph and Betty Zaprazny at a cost of $350,000.
Since then, the board has worked with state and federal officials to secure millions of dollars in funding to use for developing the site.
In other matters, the commissioners voted to ratify a grant agreement with the Medical Assistance Transportation Program in the amount of $1,642,050.
O'Gurek explained that the money is used to help cover transportation expenses for people on medical assistance. LANTA, the company that runs the county's transportation system, provides these services to individuals in need of going to the doctor and hospital.
O'Gurek noted that people on medical assistance who do not use LANTA for their transportation services to doctor appointments are also covered under this grant.
Commissioner Charles Getz also voiced his disapproval for the highway spraying that has been occurring along roadways in the county.
He said he spoke with representatives of the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau but was not satisfied with the answer.
He noted that the spraying behind the guiderails is killing the vegetation along the highways and looks terrible.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein asked if there was anything in the county's ordinance to help them pursue the matter.