Norfolk Southern holds final public open house of proposed $28M double-stack train project

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — A rail project years in the making could be getting started in the next year.

Norfolk Southern held its final public open house of the proposed $28 million project on Wednesday night.

The railroad wants to use double-stack trains. Essentially, it’s just one container stacked on top of another. Currently, many of the bridges in the Pittsburgh area can’t handle it.

“Our bridges through this area just do not have the vertical clearance to accommodate,” said David Becker, Chief Engineer of Design and Construction for Norfolk Southern.

The company has been working on the project for years. Pittsburgh City Council and community groups eventually agreed to allow double-stack trains.

Becker says the route “through downtown Pittsburgh” and surrounding areas can’t handle the stacking. The trains use a detour and he says this project would increase efficiency.

Not everyone is on board.

“Pollution is a huge problem,” concerned citizen Larry Simms said. “But, the real problem is the condition of the infrastructure they’re working on.”

He’s also worried about derailments, citing multiple incidents with double-stacks in the area in the last handful of years.

“We have an accident there, even if it’s a derailment without an explosion, what’s going to happen when the cars fall into the river?” he said.

“I’m for the new bridge. I’m not excited about the double-stack trains, I’ll tell you that,” Abigail Salisbury said.

Salisbury is on Swissvale Council. Her borough is home to one of the affected bridges. Right now, it’s shut down by PennDOT due to safety concerns.

The project would build a new bridge, but it could be years.

“For us, it’s not soon enough. I’m told by our firefighters this bridge issue causes a five to 10 minute delay in responding,” she said.

Norfolk Southern is shooting for a completion date sometime in 2026.

More information on the project can be found here.

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