In January, Elizabethtown Borough Council approved an agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to construct an overflow parking lot at the Amtrak train station (which, by the way, recently was recognized by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission as being a formerly endangered historic property that was saved and has received awards).
You might recall that an old freight train station sitting in the middle of the proposed parking lot has been the subject of intense discussions among borough officials, the Elizabethtown Historical Society (EHS), and state and federal officials for about two years. The agreement allows for the borough to demolish the freight station as long as the borough mitigates that by recognizing that a historic structure once stood there.
After coverage from January's meeting in the Lancaster press, the borough has issued the following update about the issue and the process the borough went through to reach this point:
"Last month, Elizabethtown Borough Council took the next steps toward the construction of an overflow parking lot at the Amtrak train station by approving a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding the demolition and mitigation of adverse effects for the former freight station building currently located on the property where the parking facilities are planned.
"The MOA is the result of a thorough historical review process, called Section 106, that the federal government mandates should a project using federal funds impact a historic property. This process included several consulting parties, including the Borough of Elizabethtown and the Elizabethtown Historical Society as well as state and federal agencies.
"Recent press regarding the proposed project has over simplified and failed to include several points regarding this review process. Over the past two years, numerous proposals were considered for the preservation of the former freight station building as an alternative to demolition. The Borough of Elizabethtown presented two proposals, one to relocate the building to a Borough-owned lot on West High Street and another to relocate the building to the White Oak Mills property for restoration and active use. In the end, these proposals were not considered acceptable alternatives in part because the Elizabethtown Historical Society either rejected the proposals or introduced numerous stipulations for the relocation that the Borough could not responsibly meet.
"Proposals to maintain the former freight station building in its current location were not feasible for the Borough as it would have 1) had negative impact on the proposed overflow parking facility project by limiting its scope; 2) required the Borough to use its operating and capital funds for the restoration and long term maintenance of the building; and 3) introduced liability, insurance, and building code issues as a publicly-owned building. The Borough did not believe that the $10,000 offered by the Historical Society to maintain its current location would be sufficient for such a project.
"During the review process, the state and federal governments made clear that public funding would be available for the relocation and public use of the former freight station building with the condition that a definitive, feasible and funded alternative to the demolition of the building was provided. Following a meeting of the consulting parties on October 9, 2012, the Elizabethtown Historical Society was provided an opportunity and sixty days to work in consultation with the PA Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC) to provide such an alternative. By December 31, 2012, following the expiration of two time extensions, such a plan was not produced. That is when the MOA for demolition and mitigation was drafted and then circulated to the consulting parties on January 11, 2013. Borough Council approved the MOA at their regular public meeting on January 17, 2013.
"As this review process concludes, the Borough plans to move forward with the project which consists not only of the construction of an overflow parking lot facility for the Amtrak train station that is expected to achieve more than 80 parking spaces, but also additional improvements to the Amtrak station including additional security measures, a covered bicycle shelter, retaining walls to manage bank erosion, the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle pathway completing the connecting the train station to the downtown, and the construction of associated stormwater facilities. This construction project is 100% funded by state and federal funds.
"The rehabilitated Amtrak station and intermodal transportation center recently was recognized by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission as being a formerly endangered historic property that was saved and received awards.
"This project achieves objectives of the Master Plan for Downtown Elizabethtown and the Regional Strategic Plan adopted by Elizabethtown Borough and its neighboring municipalities in 2010."