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Carbon, railroad officials must decide who will pay matching High Bridge funds

Published November 24. 2010 05:00PM

Carbon County and railroad officials will have to discuss who will pay the $300,000 matching portion of a $700,000 state grant they received to complete work on the Hometown High Bridge.

On Wednesday, the county railroad commission discussed what needs to be done before they can accept the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's Rail Freight Assistance Grant, which calls for a 30 percent local match. The grant will be used to help rehabilitate the high bridge, located in Schuylkill County but owned by Carbon County. Reading and Northern Railroad also utilizes that bridge for its business.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, who also chairs the railroad commission, said the county must have a discussion with Carbon and Schuylkill Railroad, the company that manages the county's rail line, about the $300,000 matching portion of the grant before any action on accepting the grant can be taken. No formal discussion between the two parties on this matter had taken place as of yesterday.

O'Gurek added that neither the county nor the railroad commission has the money to cover the 30 percent for the $1 million project total.

The board must approve the grant by Dec. 10, or it could be in jeopardy of losing the money. After the grant is accepted, the county and railroad will have until Dec. 31, 2011 to complete the project.

The county will now set up a time to meet with railroad officials to discuss the matter.

A special meeting of the railroad commission is scheduled for Dec. 2, following the weekly meeting of the Carbon County Commissioners, which takes place at 10:30 a.m., in the commissioners' meeting room on the third floor of the courthouse annex in Jim Thorpe. The purpose of the meeting will be to take a vote on approving the grant.

Carbon County officials have been working on securing funding to rehabilitate the 185-foot bridge for years. The first two times the county applied for RFAP monies, the project was not approved.

This last time, the railroad applied for the $1 million grant on behalf of the county railroad commission.

In December, the county received notice that it would receive $435,456 of the $1 million grant that was applied for through the RFAP program. The grant was still nearly $600,000 less than what the county needed for the project.

In March, the county received notification from PennDOT, stating that "on behalf of Governor Rendell, the Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports and Waterways is pleased to inform you that your application for funding assistance under the 2010 Rail Freigh Assistance Program has been selected to received additional funding of $264,544."

This additional funding now brought the total of the RFAP grant to $700,000, which represents 70 percent of the state share, the letter stated.

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