Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Allows PennDOT, Norfolk Southern to Move Toward Improved Freight and Passenger Rail Service in Western Pa.

Governor Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Jennie Louwerse were joined by Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Amit Bose, Norfolk Southern (NS) Regional Vice President Rudy Husband and local officials to announce that the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) has paved the way for movement toward improved freight and passenger-rail service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

Due to the BIL’s passenger-rail investments, PennDOT and NS will now collaborate on the operating agreement and finalize the improvements required to increase passenger-rail service on the NS-owned corridor west of Harrisburg. The engineering and construction will stem from a NS operational feasibility study identifying improvements required to eliminate eight chokepoints and to allow freight and passenger trains to operate without conflicting with each other.

The improvements can begin when PennDOT and NS finalize an operating agreement including the project scope, how freight and passenger operations will both safely use the corridor, compensation for the use of NS’s assets, and adequate liability protection. PennDOT will fund the agreement by redirecting state Multimodal Transportation Fund dollars because part of the BIL’s funding is intended to replace train sets on the Amtrak passenger-rail network. PennDOT had been setting aside funding to meet requirements from a 2008 federal law which would have required approximately $350 million from Pennsylvania toward train set costs.

After an agreement is finalized, work could begin on several improvements anticipated to be completed over an estimated five years of construction. The additional service will begin after these improvements are made.

The Harrisburg, Lewistown, Huntingdon, Tyrone, Altoona, Johnstown, Latrobe, Greensburg, and Pittsburgh train stops are on NS’s Pittsburgh Line, which is part of the Premier Corridor, a main artery for double-stack intermodal traffic moving between Chicago and metropolitan New York. It is one of the busiest and fastest links on the railroad’s network, with major terminals in Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and the Lehigh Valley. In a typical year, more than half of NS’ time-sensitive parcel and less-than-truckload shipments use the route at some point. NS trains deliver or pick up freight at 140-plus stations along the corridor, serving more than 800 customers.

“Our railways are vitally important to Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy—transporting goods to the rest of the Nation and connecting people to the Commonwealth,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey. “Thanks to the infrastructure law, we’re going to be able to make critical improvements to both freight and passenger rail. This news is a win for travelers and businesses who rely on our railways.”

“I strongly supported the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in Congress because I knew the investments in infrastructure it would make would greatly benefit Pennsylvania,” Congressman Michael Doyle said. “Our economy depends on rail to move thousands of passengers and millions of tons of cargo a year, and the investments announced today will improve Pennsylvania’s railroad capacity significantly in the coming years. I’m also pleased that the new infrastructure law will result in more round-trip rail service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

More information on PennDOT’s efforts to improve intercity passenger rail in Pennsylvania is available on the Plan the Keystone website.

-via Press Release

This article was posted on: February 23, 2022