(The Center Square) — Thanks to an agreement between Norfolk Southern and Amtrak — and a $200 million investment from the commonwealth — western Pennsylvania will have more passenger rail coming through Pittsburgh.
On Friday, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced a passenger rail expansion for Amtrak’s New York City-Harrisburg-Pittsburgh service, going from once daily to twice daily.
“More Pennsylvanians will have access to modern, safe, reliable passenger rail that gets them where they need to go – connecting Pennsylvania communities and bringing jobs, economic development, and infrastructure investment along with it,” a PennDOT press release announced.
To make the expansion happen, the commonwealth will spend more than $200 million on “infrastructure and safety improvements” built and maintained by Norfolk Southern. If a grant application succeeds, the Federal Railroad Administration will provide some funding for the work.
The upgrade is a win-win for business and passengers, PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll argued.
“This agreement lays the groundwork for expanded passenger rail service in Western Pennsylvania while simultaneously preserving a critical freight rail corridor,” Carroll said.
Republicans were also quick to praise the agreement.
“Today’s announcement keeps us on course to achieving what was said couldn’t be done – more rail service for western Pennsylvanians,” Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Clearfield and chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said. “This was one of my first priorities when elected and I am pleased that we are nearing completion of our goal.”
The agreement reflects some statewide aspirations for expanding passenger rail.
In eastern Pennsylvania, the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority is still waiting from the Federal Railroad Administration to hear if they’ll receive a $500,000 grant to plan for a potential restoration of rail service between Philadelphia and Reading.
In the northeast, officials are optimistic that they’ll get federal funding for a Scranton-to-New York City line.