Residents of Rockwood and surrounding communities spoke overwhelmingly in favor of bringing an Amtrak train station to the borough during a public meeting Monday night.
Throughout a 30-minute, question-and-answer period inside the Rockwood Volunteer Fire Department’s social hall, more than a dozen individuals talked about the potential benefits of having the little municipality become a stop on the Capitol Limited line between Chicago and Washington, D.C.
An Amish resident explained how train access would enable members of his community to more easily travel long distances when in need of medical care. John Hess, the director of sales at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, explained why having a nearby stop could help bring more money-generating conferences to the facility. Other individuals felt developing the stop could benefit tourism and local businesses.
When given the chance to speak during the public comment period, nobody in the crowd of approximately 100 people said anything negative about the idea.
“I think it’s great,” said Andy Batson, a planner with Michael Baker Corp., the company in charge of the proposed project. “I think it shows that there’s a lot of public support for the project and that it is sorely wanted and needed in this area.”
Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk concurred, saying, “It seems like the general consensus of the people who were here is that they support the train station.”
The meeting was called to discuss the feasibility study that Baker recently finished. The plan calls for constructing a stop at the Rockwood Mill Shoppes and Opera Home.
It would cost $3.9 million with the majority of money, $2.3 million, going toward improving rail infrastructure. Batson estimated 2,500 riders would use the station every year.
The annual operating cost would run between $13,000 and $20,000, an amount anticipated to be covered by either Somerset County or Amtrak. Somerset’s commissioners have expressed a willingness to help financially support the project because of the potential positive impact it could make on the entire county.
“The economic development for this county would be super,” said Vatavuk.
No funding for the station has been obtained yet.
“The big thing is just being able to find the money to pay for it,” Batson said.
“Money’s always the issue. We’ve gone after a couple federal grants so far – the county has – on behalf of the station. Unfortunately, those have been unsuccessful at this point. What we heard with the new transportation bill is that there will be plenty of other opportunities for grants, and we’ll also be talking to the state government to see what they know about other funding sources.”
To read stories in their entirety, visit one of these links: