Statement before Glenn A. Walsh
Port Authority Board:
On Construction of Telephone: 412-561-7876
Never Used Electronic Mail: < firstname.lastname@example.org >
Mid-Day Rail Yard Internet Web Site: < http://www.planetarium.cc >
2004 April 23
Good morning. I am Glenn A.
In February, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recommended a Full Funding Grant Agreement for the proposed North Shore Connector light rail expansion project. However, there is one consequence of this project as currently proposed, the Port Authority’s proposed abandonment of a never-used rail car storage yard, which would result in the complete waste of $2 million in taxpayer funds.
With the construction of maintenance buildings on the former main rail yard at South Hills Junction, the Port Authority saw the need for a new rail yard to store extra light rail vehicles, needed only during the rush-hours, in the central city area. As part of Stage I of the Light Rail Transit project, a seven-track—that is five stub tracks and a loop track originally designed for PCC streetcars that can now serve as two additional storage tracks—a seven-track rail car storage yard was built, just beyond the light rail passenger station at Penn Station.
On April 2, I sent a Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law request to the Port Authority for specific information about the construction of this rail yard, including the exact cost. According to Paul Skoutelas and Jason Fincke, it would be difficult to obtain the specifics I requested, as this information is located in archives off-site. Although I have not received all of the information I requested, I have received the approximate cost of construction of this rail yard.
The information provided to
me, mostly from the July 1983 issue of the SIDEWALK
SUPERINTENDENT newsletter issued by the Port Authority to inform the public
of rail construction activities, indicates that the construction of all
A small part of the $2 million
contract was used to construct trackage from
Please note that the Massaro contract did not include the construction of the passenger platforms at Penn Station or changes to the tunnel. Nor did this contract include the overhead electrical wiring. So, the Massaro contract, along with the cost of the overhead electrical wiring, makes the total cost of this rail yard about $2 million.
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Now, the problem is this: This $2 million rail car storage yard has NEVER been used for its intended purpose. In fact, it has NEVER been used, AT ALL, for the storage of light rail vehicles! And, the Port Authority now proposes to ABANDON this rail car storage yard. If this abandonment occurs, it will result
in the complete waste of $2 million in taxpayer money—this is $2 million in 1983 dollars. This would be
the most egregious waste of taxpayer money in the 40 years of Port Authority Transit history!
And, this may not the worst of it!
In the mid-1980s, the Port Authority built several new rail stations along the Monongahela Valley Commuter Rail Line, the PATrain, using Federal funds. In the Spring of 1989, the Port Authority shamelessly abandoned the PATrain. A portion of the Federal funds used to construct the new rail stations had to be returned to the Federal Government, since these stations had been utilized for such a short period of time.
if the Port Authority does abandon the Mid-Day Rail Yard, the Federal
Government will probably ask that all of the money used to build this yard be
returned, considering that the rail yard was never, ever used! And, considering
the current financial plight of the State and County governments, the
Today is not the first time I have complained about the failure of the Port Authority to take advantage of a $2 million rail yard they constructed. About two and a half years ago, I mentioned this matter to Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas, after a Port Authority meeting. Mr. Skoutelas provided no response to this issue, at that time.
Attached to this statement is
copy of the comments I submitted on
I was fully aware of the proposal to build this Mid-Day Rail Yard in 1983. But, I thought that if the Port Authority really wanted this yard, it was probably a good idea. I am sure that the Port Authority Board of Directors, at that time, probably felt the same way. Who in 1983, in their right mind, would have thought that the Port Authority would build a $2 million rail yard—then never use it!!!
Why has this rail yard never been used? Security of the light rail vehicles in storage could not be a concern, considering that the Mid-Day Rail Yard is located adjacent to the Port Authority Police Station!
From discussions with Port
Authority staff members over the years, it seems that the staff considers access
to and from this rail yard, via a “pocket track” near
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Once a vehicle has entered
this “pocket track,” it is no longer in the
Now, in combination with this movement through the “pocket track,” I would suggest the following supplement during rush-hours. Most rush-hour passengers board or alight trains at the Steel Plaza Subway Station. So, during rush hours, the fourth or fifth train in a series of trains could be designated as being bound for Penn Station, which would still allow regular stops at Station Square, First Avenue, and Steel Plaza; these trains would not have to go through the pocket track movement With this plan, people bound for Wood Street or Gateway Center would not have to wait long for a train to their destination, if the first train they encountered was bound for Penn Station.
The storage of extra light rail vehicles, needed only during the rush hours, in a Downtown rail yard would have major financial advantages. A great deal less electricity would be consumed by the stored vehicles. And, there would be less wear-and-tear on vehicles. Certainly, these were the major reasons for construction of the Mid-Day Rail Yard!
Yet, since the Port Authority
staff has refused to use this rail yard, for more than fifteen years the Port
Authority has been consuming a great deal more electricity just for the mid-day
warehousing of these vehicles at the main
The Mid-Day Rail Yard should have been used over the last fifteen years. And, it definitely should be used now. Later this year, the Port Authority staff may, again, ask this Board to approve transit fare increases and/or service reductions. There should be no transit fare increases or service reductions approved, until the Port Authority starts reducing operating costs by using the Mid-Day Rail Yard for its intended purpose!
The Convention Center Subway
Line, as currently proposed by the Port Authority, would require the
disconnection of the Penn Station Rail Line from the rail system. I have been
told that grading considerations make this disconnection a necessity. Yet, the
Penn Station Line shares the same grade
There is no reason the Convention Center Line cannot connect to the existing Penn Station Line. In fact, I am suspicious as to why the Port Authority staff is so adamant that the Convention Center Line and the Penn Station Line cannot coexist. Could it be that the disconnection of the Penn Station Line, from the rest of the rail system, was seen as an easy way to rid the Port Authority of the Mid-Day Rail Yard embarrassment? Yes, it seems that the Port Authority planners purposely designed the Penn Station Line out of the rail system, so they can pave over this rail yard, and there would no longer be any evidence of the complete waste of $2 million of taxpayer money!
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As many of you know, I have
been a strong advocate of public transportation, and of the Port Authority, for
more than twenty-five years. However, it becomes very frustrating, and difficult,
to support the Port Authority, when there is such clear-cut evidence of waste of taxpayer dollars—money that could have
been used to improve public transportation in
public transit is very important to urban areas such as
However, first, to prevent the complete waste of $2 million of taxpayer money, the Board of Directors of the Port Authority of Allegheny County should direct the staff to do the following:
With the next
Port Authority Transit operator “pick,” the Port Authority should begin using
the Mid-Day Rail Yard for its intended purpose: the storage of extra light rail
vehicles not needed for base-period service. Of course, a side benefit of this
action would be to provide additional light rail passenger service between
2) Plans for construction of the Convention Center Subway Line should be modified to allow continual rail car access to the Mid-Day Rail Yard.
gaw 2004 April 22