We are writing to urge you to vote against the cooperation agreement that the Port Authority has proposed and to work with the citizens of Edgewood and surrounding communities to bring light rail transit and a real bike trail to our area. This may be one of the most important votes you will ever cast in your capacity as our representative, and we want to do all that we can to support you.
I appreciate your support. And believe it or not, I take every vote I cast in Council seriously. That being said, then let me make it clear. Light Rail is not before your Council right now. In Mr. Roddey's $271 Million proposal for Allegheny County, Light Rail to the Eastern Corridor is not in there. WHAT is coming is NOT within the control of your 7 member Council. HOW whatever comes into the corridor is. If we cannot come to an acceptable agreement, then I will not vote in favor. But let me make this clear--whether we come to an agreement or not, the bus way will come anyway. And we will lose any control as to how our part of it will look. The speakers on Monday from the surrounding communities failed to tell the Edgewood residents that even though they said their Councils didn't do what their communities wanted-- They reelected them anyway. No one made an issue about signing-- In fact, Mr. Martoni who I THINK was President of Swissvale's Council -was elected and REELECTED to County Council. The same with Wilkinsburg and Rankin! The "One Voice" that has been promoted lately is a ruse. Edgewood has been the ONLY voice willing to put it's money, time and effort into trying to bring LRT to the Corridor. And now a handful of residents from other communities have been part of the rallying cry. Where were they in their own communities? Where ARE they in their own communities? And WHO are they in their own communities?
We must confess that as recently as two weeks ago, we were in favor of the bus way and most definitely in favor of a stop in Edgewood. All that changed when we took the time to investigate what PAT is offering and the impact we believe it will have on the eastern suburbs. It is disreputable of the Port Authority to offer us the noise and pollution of 500+ diesel buses a day, a wall that is ugly even without the graffiti that is sure to cover it, and a "bike trail" that is really a sidewalk, especially in light of the fact that they are willing to spend millions of dollars for light rail transit in the South Hills and North Shore.
The issue of Light Rail transit has been before our community for over a decade. Your Council members have fought to bring light rail here for a long time. Invested personal time, commitment, traveled to Washington D.C. Harrisburg and have spoken to County Council members. as well as allocated money to support a study (Otak) and compensated Mr. Nogrady for his time and effort, and fought in the courts over the issue. Mr. Roddey in his recent $271 Million proposal does not have LRT coming to the Eastern Corridor. The decision not to include the Eastern Corridor was quite telling. I thank you for your honesty in admitting that up until 2 weeks ago you were in favor of the bus way. Please be aware that we have been studying this for a long time. We've had our engineers look at the impact, our solicitor examine every angle, members of Council with legal backgrounds adding to what was possible and what is not. I think that a bus stop would be beneficial to the community-- many professionals might find our community a great place to live and the ease to their jobs down town a plus. The potential for improving a LONG neglected section of our borough has a chance of occurring--we are trying to develop an aesthetically acceptable alternative to a wall (which will be the ONLY thing we have if we can't come to some agreement). I think perhaps we could use this to improve support for the businesses of Edgewood Towne Center. We had asked Mr. Nogrady to be a part of developing a plan for our community in light of the reality of the situation. He declined. Instead of supporting Council with constructive ideas and comments (something we can work with), a number of the 100+ residents out of 3000 have used fear tactics, personal character attacks and placed as the center, an option that IS NOT within our control.
But it is unconscionable for those of us who live, work, and raise our children here to "cooperate" in our own destruction. It is a fact that diesel fumes are a threat to us all, but especially the elderly, children, and those with respiratory problems (EPA). It is a fact that where light rail goes, development follows. And it is apparently a fact that PAT sees us as second-class citizens willing to settle for the bones they throw our way.
I agree that this is a socioeconomic justice issue. However, to give up any say in how the bus way comes through our community is counter productive. Wilkinsburg, Swissvale and Rankin signed. Three out of four communities signed for a project already approved to be built. It WILL be built and not exploring how we can have a say in that is short sighted. Fighting to get alternative fuel buses, and conversion to LRT is worth the time and effort. And I can and will support that. I can and will support conversion to LRT.
We know that the council has grappled with this issue for a long time. We know that the Port Authority is literally at our door and that you are feeling the pressure. But you are not standing alone; the number of us willing to demand and work for a better solution is growing every day. It is our right and our responsibility as American citizens living in a democracy to make our voices heard.
Oh, but we are and have been standing alone. I suggest that you contact Mr. Roddey, Mr. Santorum, and Mr. Specter, Mr. Martoni and all of County Council regarding this issue. Yes, we are and HAVE been standing alone. You said yourself that you have up until TWO WEEKS AGO been in support of the bus way and interestingly a bus stop. Wilkinsburg, Swissvale and Rankin have signed in the past 2-3 years. Construction has started. Of course we feel the pressure, the potential for SOME say in what happens to our area has a finite time line. The truth is, the reality is, that the project is going to go forward. If we do nothing, we get NOTHING. The fumes, the buses without alternative fuels and a wall. As harsh as that sounds that is it at this point. I have faith in our community. I have faith in its resiliency and creativity. I have energy to work to promote our community, to fight for conversion to LRT, for alternative fuel buses in the interim. For a say in HOW the corridor will be developed.
To that end, we are urging you to reject the proposed cooperation agreement, to vote against putting a stop in Edgewood should the Port Authority proceed without our cooperation, and to join with us as we work to bring light rail transit and a bike trail to our area. David did defeat Goliath, and we can triumph as well, but only if we stand up to the challenge. Now is the time to do just that.
When an agreement comes before me, I promise you I will study it, and will cast an INFORMED vote based on years of information gathering, my dedication to the community in which I am raising my family and will be what I believe to be the best possible option REALISTICALLY available for our community.