Lower Merion Township officials learned Wednesday they will receive none of the $25 million they sought from a federal transportation grant program to help pay for the Ardmore Transit Center project, Commissioner Cheryl Gelber said at Wednesday's Board of Commissioners meeting.
The commissioners also decided yet again to extend their development agreement with Dranoff Properties while all parties try to work out the details of what work should be done and how it will be funded. The current agreement was set to expire June 30 at the end of a 90-day extension period, during which the township had hoped to hear back about the key federal funding source.
Lower Merion had plenty of company in losing out on a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant. Township officials estimated 703 applications for a total of $10.2 billion were made to a program that had only $500 million to dole out.
Gelber said the township would work with PennDOT, Amtrak and Dranoff "in the days and weeks ahead" to determine a strategy. The township has previously received $6 million from the federal government and a $15.5 million state grant (requiring a 100 percent match) for the project, officials said.
Commissioner Lew Gould said he was "most anxious" to know how the township would come up with enough private-sector contributions to make the project go, and he criticized the administration and board leadership for what he called a lack of transparency.
Gould, though he said he supports the project itself, was the lone vote against extending the agreement with Dranoff. Several other commissioners expressed a mix of resolve to move forward and frustration that they haven't moved more already in the past eight years.
"If Carl Dranoff were not still in this game, then all the rest of this conversation would pretty much be moot," said Commissioner Phil Rosenzweig. "Having said that ... we certainly need clarity on what he can do and what he can't do."
Said Board President Liz Rogan, "I think everybody is committed to energizing and revitalizing the district downtown."