PennDOT, Norfolk Southern reach agreement to expand Western Pennsylvania passenger-rail access

PENNSYLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) have reached an agreement to expand passenger rail access in the western part of the Commonwealth.

According to a release, the Pennsylvanian Amtrak service travels roundtrip between New York City and Pittsburgh via Harrisburg once a day. The agreement anticipates upping that to twice daily.

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Eastbound service would depart Pittsburgh at 7 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and westbound service would depart Harrisburg at 9:41 a.m. and 4:40 p.m., the release said.

“Rail is critical in Pennsylvania and I’m pleased that we’re moving quickly to deliver these long-needed improvements,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said. “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 release said the Commonwealth will invest more than $20 million in infrastructure and safety improvements to support the agreement, which will then be constructed and maintained by Norfolk Southern. Future improvements include upgraded rail lines, passenger platforms, sidings, and necessary communications signals infrastructure.

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The release also said that PennDOT will redirect state Multimodal Transportation Fund money to support the project as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s (BIL) funding that is intended to replace train sets on the Amtrak passenger-rail network.

“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. This truly is a model for future public-private rail agreements,” said Norfolk Southern Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan.

PennDOT and Norfolk Southern have been collaborating 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 over the past four months.

The final definitive agreement is expected to be developed by the end of 2022, the release said. 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.