PA Governor Wolf Announces Operating Agreement with Norfolk Southern to Expand Western Pa. Passenger-Rail Access

Governor Tom Wolf   announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Norfolk Southern Corporation have reached an agreement to expand passenger rail access in western Pennsylvania. The milestone follows a February 2022 announcement that the parties would jointly examine opportunities to eliminate chokepoints and improve Pennsylvania’s rail system to better permit freight and passenger trains to operate together.

Currently, the Pennsylvanian Amtrak service travels roundtrip between New York City and Pittsburgh via Harrisburg once daily. The agreement that Norfolk Southern and PennDOT developed anticipates increasing those Pennsylvanian passenger services to twice a day. Eastbound service would depart Pittsburgh at 7:00 AM and 12:30 PM and westbound service would depart Harrisburg at 9:41 AM and 4:40 PM.

To support these expanded passenger operations, the commonwealth will invest more than $200 million in infrastructure and safety improvements that will be constructed and maintained by Norfolk Southern. The future improvements and construction will stem from a previously released Norfolk Southern operational feasibility study and includes upgraded rail lines, passenger platforms, sidings, and necessary communications signals infrastructure.

PennDOT will redirect state Multimodal Transportation Fund dollars to fund the project, as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s (BIL) 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 for Pennsylvania’s contribution toward train set costs. Additionally, PennDOT anticipates applying for additional BIL funds to support station and platform improvements along the route.

Over the past four months, PennDOT and Norfolk Southern collaborated to develop the operating agreement framework and finalized the improvements necessary to increase passenger-rail service on the Norfolk Southern-owned corridor between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The parties anticipate a final definitive agreement to be developed by the end of 2022. Construction can begin after the definitive agreement is executed, with the new service anticipated to start within three years of the definitive agreement’s execution.

-via Press Release

This article was posted on: June 28, 2022