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Thorpe bridge project nets Carbon $301,599

Published June 26. 2013 05:03PM

Carbon County will receive $301,599 for allowing the state Department of Transportation to lease about 6.37 acres of land at the upper end of the county parking lot for the $40 million Route 903 bridge project.

The county Railroad Commission on Tuesday agreed for PennDOT to lease the land, which is under the bridge in Jim Thorpe, as a staging area for construction.

PennDOT notified the commission of its offer to purchase use of the land for "required right-of-way, temporary construction easement, drainage easement, slope and aerial easements."

The offer involves the county, the Railroad Commission and Carbon & Schuylkill Railroad Corporation, which manages the county's rail lines. In compliance with county code, the county contracted with Raymond Geiger to review the offer; Geiger determined the offer to be "reasonable and just."

The county will receive $301,599; the Railroad Commission will receive $1; and C&S Railroad Corp., $20,000.

But the windfall may not be what it seems: Commissioners said the lot will likely need repairs after the heavy equipment rolls over it for two years, and that may well consume a significant chunk, or all, of the money.

The project would replace the span, which links the two sections of the borough over the Lehigh River, and straighten a curve that leads to the bridge. The project is expected to begin in 2014, and take about two years to complete.

The project is in the final design phase, said PennDOT's District Portfolio manager Kevin E. Milnes.

"We are currently working to obtain the required environmental permits through (the state Department of Environmental Protection) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," he said. "There are some right-of-way agreements that should be settled in the coming week and because there are impacts to the railroad, both Reading Blue Mountain and Norfolk Southern, we are waiting for the (Public Utilities Commission) order, which will lay out the responsibilities of each party during and after construction for those areas involving railroad property."

The agreements with the railroads are separate from the county's, commissioners said.

PennDOT's target date for contractors to submit bids is early December, Milnes said. If that doesn't change, the project is expected to start in the spring and be completed in the summer of 2016.

Also on Tuesday, the commission approved three payments: Lansford borough will receive $3,996.36, or 25 percent of the 2 percent gross receipts received from C&S Railroad for 2012.

Lansford has been getting an annual gift of a couple of thousand dollars a year from the Railroad Commission since 1980, thanks to commission member Rich Forgay. Forgay served as borough secretary in the 1970s through the early 1980s, and was on the commission at the same time. He arranged for the borough to receive the money each year.

In addition, the Nesquehoning Authority will received $1,053.24 in 2012 lease reimbursements, and attorney Kim Roberti will receive a six-month retainer of $750.

The commission opts to return the fees the authority pays for water lines that cross under the railroad tracks because the authority serves the public at large.

In March, C&S gave the county a lease payment totaling $17,778.97.

Last year was a good one for the company. In a letter accompanying the payment, C&S President Wayne A. Michel wrote that traffic on the rail lines increased between 2011 and 2012.

The three companies using C&S rail lines Air Products, Ametek and Transwestern handled a total of 576 cars in 2012, up from 545 in 2011. Further, payments to C&S from Norfolk Southern increased to $909,835, up from $784,414 in 2011.

The company's total gross revenues increased from $835,413 in 2011 to $974,271 last year.

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