PA: VISION 2024 Work moving forward on Johnstown's second daily Amtrak round trip

Feb. 27, 2024
A plan to bring a second Amtrak passenger train on a daily round trip through Johnstown is now fully funded — and efforts are underway to get necessary track upgrades under construction.

Feb. 23—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — A plan to bring a second Amtrak passenger train on a daily round trip through Johnstown is now fully funded — and efforts are underway to get necessary track upgrades under construction, state Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr. said.

It's part of the legwork necessary to run a second daily round-trip train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg on Amtrak's Pennsylvanian route.

More than $140 million in work is needed to upgrade sections of the rail corridor — and to allow Norfolk Southern freight trains to continue moving through the state without delays.

"It's exciting to see this finally coming to fruition," said Langerholc, R- Richland Township, noting that it was one of the first projects he advocated for as a freshman senator in 2017. He is now the chair of the state Senate Transportation Committee.

According to Mark Spada, of the advocacy group Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail, final design documents for some of the rail upgrades were 90% complete as of January. That includes planned updates in Lemoyne and Camp Hill in the Harrisburg area, Spada said.

The Johnstown section of the project, which includes work near Brownstown, was 30% submitted, he said. That estimated $10 million project will include adding a crossover that will allow trains to quickly switch tracks west of the Brownstown curve, state officials said in 2022.

Late last year, PennDOT officials said construction work was projected to begin sometime in 2024. Efforts to reach state transportation officials for a timetable on the Cambria County portion of the project were unsuccessful.

'Spend money here'

A series of approvals — and a major deal between the government, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern last year — allowed the once-longshot project to occur.

"We were met with a lot of naysaying early on ... but we pushed forward," Langerholc said, "and we worked with a lot of people from different backgrounds to make it happen."

A group of Johnstown-area leaders had been pushing for the project for years — and saw a window of opportunity open after the Biden administration made upgrading America's passenger rail network a priority in 2021.

Langerholc credited Jennie Louwerse, now-former PennDOT deputy secretary for multimodal transportation, for making the project a priority in Pennsylvania and ensuring it continued moving forward.

More than $143 million in funds were received last fall from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for the project.

Langerholc said that the second daily Pennsylvanian round-trip will bring more people to Johnstown.

"People are going to travel here for our festivals and out outdoor recreation. They are going to spend money here," he said.

Ridership on the passenger train route that travels through Johnstown grew nearly 10% during a 12-month span that ended Sept. 30.

According to Amtrak's ridership report, 192,728 trips were logged in the 2023 fiscal year on the Pennsylvanian, whose stops include Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Altoona and Harrisburg. The figure was just over 176,000 a year prior.

It wasn't all good news, however.

Ridership on the Capitol Limited train, which runs from Washington, D.C., through Cumberland, Maryland, and Connellsville, Fayette County, toward Pittsburgh, fell more than 24% in fiscal year 2023, Amtrak reported.


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