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Maglev may hit legal action

| Monday, May 14, 2012, 1:15 a.m.

Penn Township commissioners unanimously agreed Wednesday to consider all options in a fight over a high-speed train cutting a path through the municipality.

The board stopped short of threatening immediate legal action against Maglev Inc. or any of the public or private groups involved in the project.

The commissioners' position was outlined in a prepared statement read by board Chairman Charles Horvat Jr., who called Maglev Inc.'s efforts to find a route other than through the township "disingenuous."

"I will be asking for a motion to adopt a resolution to authorize the (board) to pursue any and all legal options afforded us if, in fact, MSM (Maguire Group, Skelly and Loy Inc. and McCormick, Taylor and Associates Inc.) and Maglev choose the route through our township," he read.

MSM is considering the routes for the train as part of an Environmental Impact Study that the group is doing under contract for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, the public entity involved in the project.

"Our efforts shall not only be limited solely to the utilization of the railroad corridor. The commissioners will also endeavor to have either a fair and equitable representation of Westmoreland County in the construction, ownership and operation of this proposed system, or the termination of maglev at the Westmoreland County line," Horvat said.

He urged neighboring municipalities and groups to support Penn Township.

"I have no illusion as to the difficulties we are about to face. I cannot guarantee success, but I can assure you we will fight for the best interest of our citizens," Horvat said in concluding the statement.

The board's solicitor will draw up a resolution related to the statement for the commissioners' endorsement at the regular meeting Monday. The commissioners' vote last night gave attorney Les Mlakar the go-ahead to write that resolution.

After the meeting, Horvat said the board isn't threatening a lawsuit at this time.

"It could (eventually), but that's what we're saying now," Horvat said.

"Our patience has run thin," he added. "Right now we're making a very strong statement that we mean what we say and say what we mean."

Maglev officials are proposing to cut a slice basically through the center of Penn Township as part of the 47-mile train system that would connect Pittsburgh and its international airport with Monroeville and Greensburg.

Several Penn Township residents who have met with maglev officials claim the route through Penn Township —- one of two now being studied in Westmoreland County — is the preferred alignment of maglev officials.

The Penn Township route generally would run through an expansion area of the Valley Landfill, the residential developments of Oak Farms and Campbell Farms Estates, Claridge and Shramm's Farm and Orchard. It also would run near the Grandview Fire Hall before cutting through Bashford Acres in Hempfield Township en route to a proposed magport, or station, near the Greengate Mall.

The other route under consideration in Westmoreland County basically would slice through Murrysville's business district, running parallel with routes 22 and 66, before connecting with the magport near Greengate.

The commissioners and others have been suggesting to maglev officials that they consider the existing Harrisburg-to-Pittsburgh railroad corridor for the maglev alignment through Westmoreland County. The portion of the railroad corridor in the county would run south of Monroeville to the Greengate Mall.

In a related presentation, Anthony Mark told the commissioners that despite maglev officials' claims, he doesn't believe they ever studied the railroad route.

"The only route that was studied since (maglev's) inception ... was through the municipality of Monroeville," said Marks, who noted he was speaking as a township resident and not as a member of township's zoning hearing board.

He told the commissioners the question isn't why maglev wants to come through Penn Township. The question is, "Why Monroeville?"

Marks noted that maglev's proposed alignment runs mostly along railroad lines in Allegheny County, then swerves upward to Monroeville, at a cost of about $57 million per mile of maglev line.

Both Monroeville and Pitcairn, which is along the railroad corridor being recommended by the Penn Township commissioners, Marks and others, have equal access to interstates 76 and 376 as well as Route 22 as "major intermodal connections," Mark said.

But Pitcairn also offers other transportation services that Monroeville doesn't, he said. They include an intermodal truck freight terminal, Amtrak, the Norfolk-Southern Railroad and Route 30, Marks said.

"What does Monroeville have that Pitcairn doesn't• Port Authority mini-buses, which circulate through the heavily populated Monroeville area," he said.

Marks claimed that if not for going to Monroeville, maglev "would not disembowel" the communities of Murrysville and Penn and Hempfield townships with the proposed routes through Westmoreland County.

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