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Posts Tagged ‘Lakeshore Rail Alliance’

Erie Times E-Edition Article-County poised to create rail advocacy group

Posted by M. C. on October 26, 2021

I hate to mention this but an advocacy group already exists.

What could be more typical than creating a bureaucracy duplicating the efforts of an existing private organization, incorporating it into county government, adding duplicate personnel, office space and equipment requirements, based on a gambling industry based grant that admittedly may not exist after after this year? All this with the result being ‘bring high-speed rail to Erie County by 2060.’

2060! By then rail may be replaced by something of which we haven’t yet dreamed. Elon Musk is likely already working on it.

If anyone with any sense were in charge they would give the money to All Aboard Erie and keep their noses out of AAE’s business. All Aboard Erie has already done research on routes, existing rail lines and what it may take to update them. They are ahead of any game government could conjure up.

It will take Erie County until 2060 to fix the storm sewers.

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

― Ronald Reagan

Ed Palattella Erie Times-News USA TODAY NETWORK The Erie area’s push for expanded passenger rail service could soon be on the financial fast track.

Erie County Council on Tuesday night will voter to create a county agency called the Erie County Rail Future Commission and fund it with $1 million in gaming revenue.

The group, made up of an appointed board and a chief administrative officer, is designed to lobby for enhanced rail service and ‘establish relationships with all rail-oriented organizations in the Northeast Corridor and work to promote rail service of all kinds throughout Erie County,’ according to the resolution that would create the commission.

Once created, the commission would take shape with the appointment of nine commissioners — seven appointees of County Council and two appointees of the county executive. The commission would then hire a chief administrative officer and office staff.

County Council, which meets at the courthouse at

6 p.m. on Tuesday , is scheduled to take separate votes on whether to create the Rail Future Commission and fund it using the $1 million.

Council is also scheduled to vote on amending the county’s administrative code to incorporate the commission into the code and make it part of county government, County Council Chairman Carl Anderson said.

The proposed creation of the commission comes three months after local rail advocates created a new coalition to lobby for the high-speed rail and other rail improvements in Erie. In July,

All Aboard Erie announced the formation of the Lakeshore Rail Alliance , a multi-state coalition of seven passenger rail organizations that will use their collective voice to push for better mobility along Amtrak’s Lake Shore Corridor between Chicago and New York City.

All Aboard Erie, a group dedicated to the development of high-speed rail and improvements to public transportation, was chosen to host the coalition because of its central location between the Midwest and East Coast, the group said.

Some of the alliance’s priorities include at least four daily round trips linking Chicago and New York, as well as investments in tracks, stations and high-speed rail. The alliance is also expected to lobby for improvements using money in President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill.

The Erie County Rail Future Commission is separate from the Lakeshore Rail Alliance, though the two groups are expected to be ‘working partners,’ Erie County Clerk Doug Smith said.

Anderson said he proposed the creation of the commission to help organize and enhance the different rail advocacy programs and to obtain federal funding through the infrastructure bill. He said the county must act now to take advantage of possible large-scale federal funding for rail.

‘This might be the only opening we have for a century,’ Anderson said.

Anderson said he also proposed creating a county-level commission, rather than providing grants to rail groups, to provide more county oversight over the operations and funding. He said the commission would be the central agency for the rail inititatives.

‘The whole purpose is that they would align with one another,’ he said of the rail groups.

How the funding works The $1 million in funding is from a $4.3 million pool connected to the money that Erie County government receives as part of its share of revenue from Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Summit Township.

County government splits an annual allocation with the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority for being the host county of Presque Isle Downs & Casino, which opened in 2007.

The $4.3 million allocation differs from the annual allocation. It represents money the state is sending the county to make up for revenue the casino lost due to the introduction of online gaming, or interactive gaming, in 2019.

The county is not guaranteed to get a similar allocation, related to interactive gaming, every year, said Jim Sparber, the county’s finance director. He said the county, at this point, would treat the $4.3 million as ‘one-time’ revenue.

Erie County Council on Tuesday will also vote on how to distribute the rest of the $4.3 million. Council’s proposal:

– $1 million to the Erie County Rail Future Commission – $1.946 million passed through to the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, based on the distribution formula of gaming revenue to the county and ECGRA – $633,915 appropriated to the county’s fund balance – $395,677 to the Erie County Redevelopment Authority, for improvements in Union City and Corry – $250,000 to fund a grant for Erie’s Hagen History Center, which Anderson said will use to preserve and digitize their collection, which includes historical county records. Anderson said the center will also use the money to leverage other funding. – $100,000 to the Enterprise Development Fund of Erie County, which the Erie County Redevelopment Authority manages. The Enterprise Development Fund is designed for low-income, minority, rural and female borrowers. The $100,000 would help capitalize the fund’s loan program, which has been in demand during the pandemic, according to County Council records. Advancing high-speed rail The Erie County Rail Future Commission is responsible for raising other funds in addition to the $1 million it would receive from the county via gaming revenue. The group is to ‘work to leverage funding through state and federal sources,’ according to the council resolution.

Anderson said he pushed for the use of gaming money for the commission because the county is supposed to use that money to aid ‘transformational’ projects. He also said he does not expect the county to use other gaming money to fund the commission beyond the $1 million.

‘We understand this is, right now, one-time funding from a one-time source,’ he said.

The proposed ordinance that would incorporate the commission into the county administrative code also lists the commission’s purpose.

In addition to lobbying for enhanced passenger rail service, according to the ordinance, the commission is to push to ‘develop Erie to Pittsburgh passenger and commercial rail line’ and help promote the Wabtec locomotive plant in Lawrence Park’s ‘development of battery-powered locomotives to decrease emissions and increase local employment and prosperity.’

The commission, according to the ordinance, is also to lobby to ‘bring high-speed rail to Erie County by 2060.’

Contact Ed Palattella at

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited passenger train, with service from Chicago to New York City, pulls into Union Station in Erie on July 23. Erie County Council on Wednesday is scheduled to vote on creating the Erie County Future Rail Commission to lobby for high-speed rail. CHRISTOPHER MILLETTE/ERIE TIMES-NEWS

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