(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Norfolk Southern Corporation will expand passenger rail access in Western Pennsylvania. Roundtrip service from Pittsburgh to New York City (via Harrisburg) will be increased to twice per day.
“Rail is critical in Pennsylvania, and I’m pleased that we’re moving quickly to deliver these long-needed improvements,” Governor Tom Wolf said in a PennDOT announcement. “This is another example of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and our strong state-funding position ensuring we can bring more mobility and economic benefits to these communities.”
The current schedule is one roundtrip train per day. The new schedule will see a train departing Pittsburgh at 7 a.m. and another at 12:30 a.m.
The Commonwealth will invest more than $200 million for infrastructure and safety improvements (upgraded rail lines, passenger platforms, sidings, and communications signals and infrastructure). Once constructed, those improvements will be maintained by Norfolk Southern.
PennDOT will redirect state Multimodal Transportation Fund dollars to the project. According to the announcement, PennDOT “had been setting aside funding to meet requirements from a 2008 federal law for Pennsylvania’s contribution toward train set costs,” and PennDOT plans to apply for additional funding form the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
A definitive agreement will not be completed until the end of 2022, and construction will begin after the definitive agreement is executed. Service is expected to start within three years of the agreement’s execution.
“This is an excellent example of the positive solutions that government and business can engineer by working side-by-side toward the same goal. Together, we are able to expand passenger rail access, while preserving a critical artery of our nation’s supply chain,” said Norfolk Southern Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan. “This truly is a model for future public-private rail agreements.”
The Pennsylvanian is a passenger rail route connecting with the Capitol Limited, with Cleveland, Chicago and other cities. The Pennsylvanian travels Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Line, which is part of the Premier Corridor, an artery between Chicago and metropolitan New York. It connects with major terminals in Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and the Lehigh Valley.
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Pennsylvania has 65 operating railroads – the most of any state – and ranks fifth in total track mileage with more than 5,600 miles, the PennDOT announcement reported. The 2020 Pennsylvania State Rail Plan (PDF) reported that in 2017, 193.5 million tons of freight in 4.9 million railcars moved over the state’s rail transportation system.