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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Rehabilitation Project Withdrawn 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As a result, Allegheny Ridge Corporation has withdrawn its 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Program, and also withdrawn its application for the previously 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 
Joe Kovalchick. 

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=
- -mile, 
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. 

(Philip Padgett)

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