Sunday, June 28, 2009

POWV: A Multi-state Multi-jurisdiction Partnership

In a recent film about this part of country’s economic problems one speaker was quoted as saying that it’s about time the rest of country caught up to our slump. As is well documented this area’s economic problems are directly attributed to the collapse our steel industry. A case where cheaper imports, outdated technologies, and environmental issues have been said to cause dozens of our area’s highest volume plants to shut down. But one other major factor that has not been raised since it we raised our battle over it in the 1980’s was the removal of the area’s major rail corridor. That removal occurred when federal legislation gave Conrail an open window to abandon rail lines in order to take bankrupt carriers off the federal dole. One doesn’t need extensive study to verify how that removal helped to contribute to the area’s economic ruin. Just the example of what happened in the city of Weirton WV illustrates the point all too clearly.

National Steel owned some six steel plants in the country in the 1980’s. Within months after Conrail started the degrading process for the abandonment of its Mainline Pittsburgh to St. Louis, National Steel chose to shut the doors on its Weirton Steel plant. That resulted in a mixed set of owners and partners that today leave the plant and the city in a shell of what it once was. While that was going on back then we, as offshoot of our of railroad union’s committee, organized a community based organization called POW V. We saw firsthand what was occurring and tried to prevent the dismantling of our railroad infrastructure. The most striking accomplishment we made was our application to Conrail for high-speed trains over the Mainline Pittsburgh to St. Louis that they slated to degrade and then abandon. Under the federal statues we used for our application the degrading was slowed to the point that almost all the corridor still has some rail traffic over it.

On February 17, 2009, when the President of the United States signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to, among other purposes, (1) preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery, (2) invest in transportation infrastructure that will provide long term economic benefits, and (3) assist those most affected by the current economic downturn, we collectively released a long overdo sigh of joyous relief. Because we had been asking for such a mechanism for some time in order to have what happened here be known and how we think we could make it better. That’s why we have organized a multi-State and multi-jurisdictional partnership. That’s why we are applying as such for a TIGER Discretionary Grants (‘‘Grant Funds’’). We believe that when all the facts are in and there is a transparent viewing of that data that our POW V Corridor will be seen to have the needed significant impact that’s being asked for on the Nation, our metropolitan areas, and our region.

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