U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement after a meeting he requested between U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and COLTS officials:
"I'm gratified that Secretary LaHood met with officials from COLTS this morning and fully committed to getting this project done. An intermodal transportation center in downtown Scranton will create jobs, bolster the region's infrastructure and ensure residents have access to a reliable and efficient bus system."
Senator Casey called Secretary LaHood to request the meeting prior to his visit in order to resolve the Department of Transportation's deobligation of a nearly $3 million grant that had been slated for a planned downtown transportation center.
At his meeting with COLTS officials, Secretary LaHood said the agency would work with COLTS to ease the transportation center's design and environmental approval process and committed to work with COLTS to identify necessary funds for the project without burdening the budget for operations like bus repair and replacement.
Senator Casey secured a previous meeting between the Federal Transit Administration and COLTS, and continued his pressure to resolve the issue in a letter to Secretary LaHood last week.
The full text of his letter to Secretary LaHood is below:
The Honorable Ray LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
Dear Secretary LaHood:
I write to follow up the recent meeting between the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), my office, and members of your staff regarding the deobligation of $2.9 million from the development of an intermodal transportation center in Scranton. Despite COLTS' good faith effort to move the project forward, the people of Lackawanna County now stand to suffer due the deobligation of this funding. As you know, this project is unique in nature and has overcome many obstacles and is widely supported on the state and local level.
At the suggestion of the FTA, COLTS explored an alternative site in effort to reduce project costs. It was concluded that this would detrimentally impact safety, limit the ability to connect to rail in the future and inhibit opportunities for economic development. Project stakeholders have concluded that to remain viable the project must be completed on the original site intended for development.
I have been informed that the deobligated money from COLTS, in addition to the 27 other projects nationwide, falls under the discretionary authority of the FTA. If the Department fails to reobligate money towards this project, all public investment to date will be lost. It is my understanding that COLTS recently submitted revised cost estimates to the FTA that further support the need for the reobligation of funds. I urge you to reinstate funding that is needed for this important project to continue.
Finally, I want to reemphasize that formula funding for Lackawanna County should not be used to fully replace the deobligated funds. COLTS has other pressing needs and should not be forced to forgo or postpone the replacement of aging equipment.
I look forward to swiftly reaching a resolution that allows the development of the COLTS intermodal transportation center to proceed.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator