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(rshsdepot) East Broad Top
Not depot news, but important preservation news...
If you are interested in this issue I would strongly
recommend reading the views exchanged on this issue on
the Railway Preservation News Interchange at:
$2.5 Million East Broad Top First Phase Acquisition and
Rehabilitation Project Withdrawn
Negotiations have collapsed between East Broad Top Railroad
owner Joseph Kovalchick and Allegheny Ridge Corporation (ARC),
a State Heritage Park acting on behalf of the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania with the endorsement of national historic
preservation organizations and elected officials at local,
state, and national levels. Acting on behalf of the
Commonwealth, ARC had offered to buy an option to purchase
the EBT. Concluding such an agreement would have cleared
the way for an immediate investment of $1,000,000 in public
funds for rehabilitation of the railroad's current operation.
Mr. Kovalchick rejected the terms offered by ARC, and did
not make a counteroffer.
As a result, Allegheny Ridge Corporation has withdrawn its
application to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for
$1,000,000 from the 2002 TEA-21 Transportation Enhancements
Program, and also withdrawn its application for the previously
approved $1,000,000 in 1999 funds. Including funds arranged to
fulfill a required 20 percent local match, the now-cancelled
first phase EBT Acquisition and Rehabilitation Project would
have totaled $2,500,000.
In a Finding of Fact used by leaders of the initiative to make
their decision to end negotiations and withdraw the funding
application, backers identified two central obstacles:
(1) representations made by the owner in his 1998 application
for the TEA-21 enhancement funds were not fulfilled and (2) the
owner refused to enter into contractual arrangements essential
to assure the public interest.
The finding of fact, authorized by ARC through its negotiator
for public release, reads as follows:
East Broad Top Railroad National Historic Landmark owner
Joe Kovalchick has refused to consider an option agreement
for sale of the railroad. The agreement would have evidenced
to state officials an initial step and good faith effort to
preserve with public financial assistance this endangered
historic landmark. Kovalchick previously rejected without
counterproposal a purchase offer for the railroad, stating
that he was confident that more cash could be received
through liquidation of the railroad's assets. The purchase
offer included the guarantee of an additional $1,000,000
investment of private funds to improve safety and for
initial rehabilitation of the existing tourist railroad
In 1998 Kovalchick applied for and PennDOT approved
$1,000,000 of Transportation Enhancement Program funds
for restoration of the East Broad Railroad Rockhill shops
complex. The award was based upon a statement in Kovalchick's
application, and other representations, that 'The owner of
the railroad proposes the donation of the shop complex to a
newly created nonprofit organization.' None of these proposals or representations were fulfilled by Kovalchick.
In February 1999 letters to various groups seeking their
support for the state grant, Kovalchick wrote that 'Without
support of this effort, it is almost a sure bet that EBT
will wither and disappear' and 'We all know that without
some source of public funding it is impossible to
accomplish this living museum theme.'
The Allegheny Ridge Corporation, a state Heritage Park
and the designated recipient of PennDOT's 1999 enhancement
grant, attempted for several years to proceed with the
approved shops restoration project. However, Kovalchick
would not enter into a reasonable public access agreement
for the buildings to be repaired with state money, a common
and necessary arrangement to protect the public's investment.
Subsequently, in an effort to achieve public ownership and
rehabilitation of the railroad, Allegheny Ridge submitted
in October of 2001 an application for an additional $1,000,000
from PennDOT's 2002 Transportation Enhancement Program to
include the previously approved grant of $1,000,000. A required
20 percent match of local funds would have provided for a first
phase, $2,500,000 East Broad Top acquisition and rehabilitation
The application was endorsed by representatives of the
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, National
Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, National Trust for
Historic Preservation, Railroaders Memorial Museum and by
In a November 9, 2001 response to that application, PennDOT
stated that 'we remain fast in our interest in the project'
and agreed to combine the unused $1,000,000 Kovalchick grant
with the 2002 Allegheny Ridge application if enhancement funds
were subsequently approved by the State Transportation Commission.
Unfortunately, given Kovalchick's continuing refusal to deal
in good faith with public entities, the Allegheny Ridge
Corporation has withdrawn its enhancements grant application
to clear the way for other worthwhile and achievable historic
preservation projects in the Southern Alleghenies planning area.
Universally acclaimed as one of the most authentic and significant industrial heritage sites in the United States, the 32=
3-foot gauge East Broad Top Railroad is listed as a National
Historic Landmark, the highest designation in the U.S. National
Register of Historic Places. In 1985, deferred investment in
maintenance and preservation of the property caused the National
Park Service to officially declare the EBT to be endangered.
When the toll taken by deferred maintenance accelerated in the
1990s, the EBT was placed on the National Trust for Historic
Preservation's List of Most Endangered Historic Places in 1996.
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The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org