5/2/2014 By State Rep. Curt Sonney
4th Legislative District
It’s a good bet that any group of people involved in a discussion at the local store or restaurant in Harborcreek Township is talking about the intermodal project proposed for Walbridge Road. If you’ve attended any of the public meetings held on the subject, you know the project has little support among the residents of Harborcreek.
Let’s be clear - those of us who live in the township are not opposed to economic development. We do have legitimate concerns about the additional traffic that will exist if this project becomes a reality. For starters, you can understand our worries about the 70 to 80 trains per day that will cross Walbridge Road.
A majority of the trucks that would be traveling back and forth from Interstate 90 will be using Depot Road. I ask those of you who support this project to take a drive up Depot Road from Route 20 and let me know if you think a significant increase in truck traffic would be good for this stretch of highway.
Take a look also at the two schools along the way and the existing amount of traffic generated by buses, teachers and students. While there, you will see a lack of berms along the road and the twists, turns and hills that must be navigated to travel from Route 20 to the throughway.
What impact do you think the intermodal project would have on increased commercial building in this district? We know retailers and restaurants look at vehicle traffic when locating into a new area. Passenger car counts will be severely reduced if a significant number of people avoid the area because of the heavy trucks.
Pushing truck traffic to Iroquois Avenue would not help and only cause additional safety concerns at the underpass as trucks travel to Depot Road. Furthermore, the infrastructure is not in place to handle the increased traffic volume that would come with this project.
Many other locations for the intermodal project have been suggested. We are still waiting to hear solid evidence as to why these alternative sites do not work. Any site that is selected will require substantial investments to be made into improving surrounding roads. Those investments need to include quick, easy access to our interstate system for truck drivers.
I believe the residents of Harborcreek would accept the train stopping at Walbridge Road. We can deal with the minor inconvenience of working through the delays that would occur with the train. The problem lies with the loading and unloading of these trains that would be better located on 12th Street or the Hammermill property between Route 5 and 12th Street, which is better suited for the truck traffic and accessibility to the Bayfront Highway.
Harborcreek residents realize the need for economic development and know how important it is to bring jobs to Erie County. We are aware of the potential for great benefits associated with the rail project, as well as the negative impacts associated with the Walbridge Road site.
I cannot support this project as proposed and have taken steps at the state level to try to block any taxpayer dollars from being spent on it. I have spoken with Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch and have personally invited him to visit Erie and tour all of the proposed sites.
It is my hope that Develop Erie will work towards selecting a site that the community can embrace, and I can support in my district and in Harrisburg.
Representative Curt Sonney
Pennsylvania House of Representatives