He said he will not ask the cities for money and added the state has very little funding available. “We may even ask for some corporate support.”
He said even after the $250 million local share is raised, it may take Congress years to appropriate the other $250 million match.
Raup envisions that in November 2014 referendums will ask voters in Lehigh and Northampton counties if they are willing to pay a pennies-a-day transit tax to fund the effort. He said that would be a payroll tax of less than a dollar a week.
Raup projects that tax will raise about $250 million over 20 years.
“If the voters shoot it down, that’s the end of it; it will die,” said Raup. “But I don’t think the Lehigh Valley is that short-sighted. Most of the Lehigh Valley recognizes that this is essential to our growth and well-being.”
If the referendums pass, the authority will begin planning and seeking additional funding.
“We won’t see much happening for several years but then things will start to snowball,” said Raup. “This is not anything that will come together quickly. If things go at lightning speed, we’re probably looking at 10 to 12 years before the first train runs.”
He said the norm is re-establishing passenger rail service takes 20 to
30 years, “but it’s increasingly becoming unacceptable to take that long.” He said California did a similar project in just eight years.
Noting the resolution states the Lehigh Valley has lacked passenger rail service since 1962, Dolan told her colleagues “passenger rail did not die a natural death. It was killed through somewhat nefarious means by competing corporate interests that would take us off of rail and put us onto roads. So rails were rolled up. It was taken from us.”