When I walked into Easton's Third Street Alliance meeting room, the place was packed with about seventy proponents of passenger rail. Marin was preaching to the choir. Marin is promoting the extension of an existing rail line from Clinton, NJ, to Easton and further west. I learned there are already rails from Clinton to Phillipsburg, NJ, the western border of New Jersey. New Jersey has even designated areas for stations and parking lots.
Marin has persuaded the publicly-funded LVEDC to pay $100,000 towards a $250,000 railroad study. He expects to get the rest of the money from Northampton and Lehigh County, $75,000 each. In other words, the public is expected to pick up the entire tab.
Joyce Marin, Paul's wife, told the assembled masses that "Lehigh Valley Commissioners" have already approved the idea. I think she was referring to Lehigh County. She also claimed Paul even made a very favorable impression on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, with the exception of two or three of those damnable naysayers.
"And we all know who they are," laughed Paul Marin, as the rest of the crowd joined in and yukked it up.
So much for having an open mind.
Lots of New York accents, by the way. Not one elected official was in the room. Nor were there any news reporters.
At this point, I asked the rail apostles whether there's something wrong with people who have questions. Isn't that the reason for this meeting in the first place? Marin stopped laughing.
I also asked a few other questions. Who is really benefiting? Should all of us be expected to pay for rail lines to bring more commuters in from New Jersey and New York? Who is really behind this? We already know it won't solve congestion, but won't it exacerbate it? Aren't these commuters going to gobble up what little open space we have left? Where's the zoning proposals? What about the schools? Won't they be overburdened, too?
Heresy! I got dirty looks the rest of the night.
About the only answer I got from Marin is that he himself is not a member of the Lehigh Valley Partnership, an unelected aristocracy that operates like a shadow government. According to Blue Coyote's description of a good study, we won't see those questions answered there, either.
As Blue Coyote explains it, 330 projects are already under consideration for federal funding. For all practical purposes, this is already dead.
Undaunted, Marin is moving forward. He made a pitch to Northampton County and was told the county would consider his request in next year's budget. Unwilling to wait in line like everyone else, Marin wants his money NOW. He plans a pitch next week before Northampton County Council.
After the meeting, I called the Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, who just happens to chair Council's finance committee. This was news to him.
Incidentally, Angle is one of the two or three LVPC naysayersl - the ones Marin was laughing at earlier this evening.
I told Angle that, too.