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Train company says North Side rail use needs to be expanded

PITTSBURGH — Trains have rolled through West Park on the North Side for decades.

Now, Norfolk Southern wants to increase train traffic in the area by bringing in the double-stack cars that currently run on the South Side. Target 11's Rick Earle spoke to Norfolk Southern about that decision.

“One of the primary reasons is to make our double-stack route more direct,” said Norfolk Southern official Ruby Husband. “It's a little circuitous coming through the South Side, plus we have to deal with landslides, so it's a safety issue.”

In order to make the change, Norfolk Southern needs to raise the height of eight bridges. Several of those are on the North Side, including one at the intersection of North Avenue and Brighton Road and another on West Ohio Street.

People living on the North Side aren't happy about the plan.

“The real story here is that they are trying to push more of this large freight traffic right through the middle of the city,” said John DeSantis. “That is the opposite of what we should be trying to do.”

DeSantis fears there could be a derailment like the one involving double-stack cars at Station Square in August. That accident nearly missed hitting a T train and caused a major city issue for days during the cleanup.

“On the South Side, we saw Listerine," DeSantis said, referencing the hundreds of cases of mouthwash that spilled from the crash. "We are not going to be lucky enough to have Listerine every time.”


Some of the cars Channel 11 saw on the North Side carry flammable and hazardous materials. Husband said neighbors don't need to worry.

“The fact is that freight rail and rail transportation in general is the safest mode of ground transportation in the country,” he said.

Some residents believe Norfolk Southern should consider lowering the tracks to provide even more a buffer zone.

“If you’re going to have a train accident, have it down in one of those trenches,” DeSantis told Target 11’s Rick Earle. “Everything stays down there.”

Norfolk Southern contends that would create drainage problems and the make the existing walls unsafe.

“It was looked at by the city years ago and the city determined it wasn't feasible,” Husband said.

After a contentious public meeting several months ago, State Sen. Wayne Fontana sent a letter to PennDOT accusing Norfolk Southern of lacking transparency. He requested PennDOT withhold funding for the $30 million project. We asked PennDOT about that meeting.

“The original meeting was supposed to be an informational,” said PennDOT executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni. “I think most of the residents thought it was more of a public involvement meeting and that the railroad was trying to hide something.”

In response, PennDOT hired a consultant to determine the best option. It also plans to hold more public meetings.