Expanded passenger rail for western Pennsylvania possible with new PennDOT, Norfolk Southern agreement

June 30, 2022
The agreement would see daily roundtrip trains between Pittsburgh and New York City increase from one to two.

A new agreement between Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Class 1 freight railroad Norfolk Southern will allow daily roundtrip Pittsburgh to New York City Amtrak trains to increase from one to two.

In February 2022, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said PennDOT and Norfolk Southern would collaborate on ways to increase passenger rail service in western Pennsylvania. Gov. Wolf credited the passenger rail investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law with speeding the infrastructure work required to increase passenger rail service. The infrastructure law includes funding to replace train sets on Amtrak’s network, which will allow Pennsylvania to redirect state Multimodal Transportation Fund dollars toward the infrastructure work.

Pennsylvania will invest more than $200 million in infrastructure safety improvements along the Norfolk Southern-owned corridor between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. PennDOT and Norfolk Southern have spent the past four months developing the operating agreement framework and finalizing the improvements necessary to eliminate chokepoints and improve the operation of both freight and passenger trains in Pennsylvania. The work includes track upgrades, passenger platform improvements, sidings and signals infrastructure. Norfolk Southern will construct and maintain the infrastructure improvements.

"Rail is critical in Pennsylvania and I'm pleased that we're moving quickly to deliver these long-needed improvements," Gov. 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."

Currently, the Pennsylvanian Amtrak service travels roundtrip between New York City and Pittsburgh via Harrisburg once daily and is expected to increase to twice per day following completion of the infrastructure improvements.

PennDOT and Norfolk Southern anticipate a final definitive agreement to be developed by the end of 2022. Once this final definitive agreement is executed, construction can begin with the new service anticipated to start within three years of the definitive 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. This truly is a model for future public-private rail agreements," said Norfolk Southern Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.


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