A major rehabilitation of the Johnstown Inclined Plane has been put on hold by a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Financing for the $8 million to $12 million project included grants from mass transit funds paid to PennDOT by the Turnpike Commission, as required under a 2007 state law.
The funding was originally enacted in anticipation of federal approval for tolls on Interstate 80. When the federal government rejected the Route 80 tolls, the turnpike’s payments to PennDOT were reduced from $900 million to $450 million a year through 2022.
But two trucking groups filed a federal lawsuit last year, claiming the transit funds were illegal and asking for a $5 billion refund. Facing the lawsuit, the turnpike suspended the payments and PennDOT put some transit funding on hold. The hold not only delayed CamTran’s Inclined Plane rehab, but projects at Port Authority in Allegheny County and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia.
A federal judge threw out the lawsuit in April, but the trucking groups have appealed the decision.
“We are meeting with PennDOT in August about different projects, including the Inclined Plane rehab,” CamTran Executive Director Rose Lucey-Noll said at Friday’s meeting of Cambria County Transit Authority board.
Preliminary work for the rehabilitation has been completed over the past two winter off-seasons when the Inclined Plane is shut down, she noted.
“The next step was to be the big project,” Lucey-Noll said. “We will meet with PennDOT in August and see where we are.”
Initial work included a main motor overhaul and repairs to the safety sheave wheel and associated equipment, located under the Edgehill Drive boarding platform.
Design work for the major project is about 60% completed, Lucey-Noll said.
Funding for the remaining design work and construction is being held up by the lawsuit.
Work put on hold includes restoration of the funicular’s cars; rebuilding the cars’ wheel shafts, bearings and suspension; replacing the main sheave wheel and replacing all the wooden railway ties. Also planned are upgrades to track lighting, public address system, security monitoring and safety system electronics.