View this email in your browser

The response below is a follow up to RP3’s previous submission entitled: Norfolk Southern/PennDOT’s Latest Check the Box Exercise.
By way of background, Norfolk Southern and PennDOT have been holding closed meetings only for “consulting parties” to determine the potential effects of the Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Project on historic properties, and whether an agreement can be reached on mitigation pursuant to the Pennsylvania History Code. These meetings are overseen by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO.) Because of the lack of transparency, we are sharing an abbreviated version of the most recent “Comments” submitted by Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh (RP3) to the 3rd Merchant Street Bridge Meeting:

We must object to both the timing and substance of Norfolk Southern’s November 20 letter to PA SHPO.  The objection is based on the ongoing mediation relating to the only other PVCP component which is adjacent to Allegheny Commons— the W North Ave Bridge.
If issues relating to the W North Ave Bridge theoretically were to be resolved within the mediation process, it would also theoretically and logically remove and likely preclude stakeholders from weighing in on both the assessment of audible and atmospheric direct and indirect impacts that PVCP bridge project has on the historic Commons—and the appropriate mitigation that should result.  Viewed in the context of the ongoing mediation, Norfolk Southern’s November 20 letter is an attempt at an “end run” around a significant issue, and an insult to the PA SHPO process and objectives. 

Keep in mind the history of this issue. At our earlier Merchant St Bridge meetings, it was agreed that the replacement of the Merchant St Bridge facilitated the PVCP, which impacted the Commons. That led to an April 30 Preservation Office letter directing Norfolk Southern to provide data on direct and indirect impact on the Commons (atmospheric, noise, vibration, visual) in connection with the Merchant St Bridge meetings. That directive was ignored— even though neighbors know that monitors had been used to gather that very data. Instead, we were told that another “undisclosed preliminary study” indicated that there would be 4 fewer trains running/day on the proposed PVCP route in year 2045 justifying both the replacement of the Merchant St Bridge and the approval of the PVCP.  The Preservation Office accepted the claim at face value and opined, in its September 16 letter that there was therefore no atmospheric or noise pollution that would adversely impact the historic Commons related to the Merchant St Bridge.  At the October 6 consulting party meeting, and in our Comments to that meeting, RP3 objected in detail to the merits of Norfolk Southern’s “undisclosed preliminary study.”

Now in its October 20 correspondence PA SHPO agrees with RP3 and admits that:
“We recognize the statement in our September 2020 letter indicating the Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Project does not have the potential to have audible or atmospheric effects on the Allegheny Commons Historic District has caused confusion. As indicated at the October meeting, this statement was based on limited information and we rescind that opinion for the Merchant Street Bridge project.”
PA SHPO then directs Norfolk Southern to provide a long list of detailed information on the topics (related to idling, number of locomotives etc.) once the PVCP consultation begins (i.e. West North Ave. Bridge.)
We submit that that the PVCP project and consultation began with the Merchant St Bridge.  The written PVCP Applications and grant funding the work on the Merchant Street Bridge are irrefutable on this point. This is true on paper, as a matter of logic, and in reality. No replaced Merchant Street Bridge; no PVCP.  Notwithstanding the above, Norfolk Southern now asks PA SHPO in its November 20 letter to “... please respond with your concurrence that the Merchant Street Bridge Project will not result in audible and atmospheric effects to the Allegheny Commons Historic District.”
Under these circumstances PA SHPO must either reaffirm its original April 30 holding that Merchant Street Bridge- as a component of the PVCP, does have a direct and indirect impact on the Commons. Otherwise, any other response by PA SHPO must await the conclusion of the mediation to determine if the consulting parties can continue to advocate on the issue.  The issue is simply too important to be handled in any other manner.
If the true purpose of these historic impact meetings is to assess impact, determine appropriate mitigation and to get the consulting parties to enter into a memorandum of agreement, we predict that will not happen with respect to the Merchant St Bridge if the impact on the park is not addressed here.  More litigation is the most likely result.

Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
Copyright © 2020 Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh (RP3), All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp