The Dillerville Rail Yard was constructed more than 100 years ago, built by railroads that no longer even exist. Entering from northwest Lancaster and passing over Harrisburg Avenue the rail line cut a swath through the City and suburban neighborhoods that grew up around it-a divider that continues to define the area today. In 1999 Norfolk Southern began operating these rail facilities as a result of the Conrail acquisition.
Several years ago, Norfolk Southern (NS) sold a portion of the yard for the construction of Clipper Stadium. Over a year later, the railroad's senior management announced plans to expand the Dillerville Rail Yard because of increased customer demand in the Lancaster market. As a result of this announcement, Franklin & Marshall College engaged senior NS management in discussions about relocating a portion of the railroad's operations in exchange for the remaining section of the eastern Yard-a concept that would effectively allow NS to consolidate the Yard's operations at the current site while simultaneously providing a chance to unify the campus and re-connect a portion of the city. NS agreed to investigate the College's concept because it provided the railroad with greater capacity to serve its local customers.
In 2005, Lancaster General joined with the College in studying the concept as a possible joint venture. Gannett Fleming, a nationally recognized engineering firm with a specialty in railroad planning and engineering operations, was retained to conduct the study. As part of its work Gannett Fleming also conducted a review of property along the rail line between Lancaster and Columbia to find any additional available sites that would accommodate the railroad's needs. In November 2006 the College and Lancaster General announced an effort to finalize feasibility and design studies for relocating a portion of the Rail Yard to a site behind the United States Post Office on Harrisburg Avenue, on the site of a former municipal dump. This relocation effectively allows NS to consolidate its Dillerville operations because it is adjacent to the main switching area east of the Harrisburg Avenue overpass.
The size of the proposed yard consolidation is approximately 12 acres. When combined with the existing NS tracks and right of way adjacent to the site, the new facility will be about half the size of the current rail yard section located between the Harrisburg Avenue overpass and Dillerville Road, where most of the switching of rail cars occurs today. In early 2007, Gannett Fleming began a final study of technical issues related to the site, started to identify solutions to these issues and began working on design concepts for the construction of the project.
At the same time, the three principals--NS, Franklin & Marshall College and Lancaster General--began the effort to inform local leaders and residents about the plan. In 2007, they held meetings in the neighborhoods near the proposed rail yard consolidation to disseminate preliminary information about the project. Two of the meetings were small gatherings in homes located in the Old School Lane Hills neighborhood and a third, larger gathering was held in the Barrcrest neighborhood. Local residents expressed their desire for more details about the project, and they were informed that the information they sought would be available after the engineering firm, Gannett Fleming, completed more of its analysis and design work. While the parties continued to respond directly to all questions or issues raised by local elected officials and neighbors, additional public meetings were delayed until the Gannett Fleming work was substantially completed.
Now, as the analysis and design work nears completion, the College, Lancaster General, and Norfolk Southern are prepared to present a more detailed review of the project to our neighbors in the surrounding communities of Lancaster City and Manheim, Lancaster and East Hempfield Townships. In February, the project team met with officials from these four municipalities, together with two residents from each community. From the input and advice we received at this meeting, we decided to expand the sound, vibration and air quality analysis for the project. The expanded scope required us to postpone the date of the large neighborhood meeting we had planned at the outset of the project. This meeting had been tentatively scheduled for April and will now take place in mid June. In the absence of the results of these tests, a comprehensive project presentation would not be responsive to the issues raised by these community leaders, and that is the sole reason for re-scheduling the presentation for June.
That said, we are sensitive to the public concerns and questions that have been raised about the project, and we recognize that our neighbors have the right to learn as much as possible about it. We are committed to meeting that obligation, and to that end we have prepared a list of Frequently Asked Questions, categorized in the links to the right, together with answers that reflect the most current factual information we possess.
We also want to do more to keep our neighbors informed. For this reason, we are also in the process of scheduling a series of small meetings in nearby neighborhoods, so that we can further engage residents in productive dialogue about the project.