Pa., Norfolk Southern get a deal to expand W.Pa rail access | Tuesday Morning Coffee

The more than $200M agreement eventually will add a 2nd daily Amtrak trip from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, officials said

June 28, 2022 7:20 am

The train station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Getty Images)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It’s official: After months of talks, state officials and rail titan Norfolk Southern are finishing up an agreement to eventually add a second daily Amtrak trip between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

“Rail is critical in Pennsylvania and I’m pleased that we’re moving quickly to deliver these long-needed improvements,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement his office released Monday. “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.”

State officials and the freight carrier first announced in February that they had started exploring the possibility of adding a second Amtrak trip to Pittsburgh, answering the prayers of rail-riders and business leaders who had been clamoring for it for years.

The agreement announced Monday between Norfolk Southern and the state Department of Transportation calls for the commonwealth to spend more than $200 million on infrastructure and safety improvements that will be built and maintained by Norfolk Southern.

The improvements include “upgraded rail lines, passenger platforms, sidings, and necessary communications signals infrastructure,” according to the administration.

The state says it will redirect existing Multimodal Transportation Fund money to pay for the project, since part of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law is intended to replace “train sets on the Amtrak passenger-rail network.”

PennDOT “had been setting aside funding to meet requirements from a 2008 federal law for Pennsylvania’s contribution toward train set costs. Additionally, PennDOT anticipates applying for additional [infrastructure law] funds to support station and platform improvements along the route,” the administration said in its statement.

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference in Pittsburgh on Friday, 2/18/22 (Commonwealth Media Services Photo).
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference in Pittsburgh on Friday, 2/18/22 (Commonwealth Media Services Photo).

State officials and Norfolk Southern, which owns the rail corridor between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, have spent the last four months working to develop the framework for the agreement.

A final version of the agreement is expected to be in place by year’s end, with construction to begin after that. New service, meanwhile, is expected to start within three years of the final deal being inked, the two sides said.

“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,” Norfolk Southern Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan said in the statement released Monday.

A view of the Amtrak station in Middletown, Pa. (Commonwealth Media Services photo).
A view of the Amtrak station in Middletown, Pa. (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, state lawmakers whose districts include the western rail corridor, praised the agreement.

The deal “moves us one step closer to increased passenger service. This has been a top legislative priority of mine since being elected to the Senate and is the culmination of broad bipartisan work across many levels,” Senate Transportation Committee Chairperson Wayne Langerholc, Jr., R-Cambria, said in a statement. ” … I look forward to the day in the very near future when Western Pennsylvanians will have additional trains.”

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, offered a similar sentiment, calling the agreement “a big deal for western Pennsylvania, and a perfect example of what can be achieved when the public and private sector work together to deliver for the people of Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania has “the most operating railroads of any state in the country, something we should be proud of,” Costa continued. “It’s an asset for both the supply chain and Pennsylvanians. The more we invest in this critical mode of transportation, the more we bolster our economy and mobility for folks across our 67 counties.”

A woman, Jackie Springer of Shippensburg, looks at a picture of her son, Austin Springer, as she talks about his death from overdosing on fentanyl.
Jackie Springer of Shippensburg looks at a picture of her son, Austin Springer, at an event where Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano spoke about bills that would provide for a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug dealers who supply a fatal overdose of fentanyl.

Our Stuff.
Flanked by parents whose children died of fentanyl overdoses, Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano highlighted legislation Monday to target drug dealers who sell the dangerous opioids and would require first responders to report all overdoses. Senior Reporter Peter Hall has the story.

States — but not Pennsylvania — want to make it easier to use life-saving red flag laws to help curb gun violence, our friends at report. The bipartisan gun deal that President Joe Biden recently signed also will smooth the path.

Most of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate have signed on to a letter to President Joe Biden pressing him to “take immediate action” to protect abortion rights, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Friday ruling overturning Roe v. WadeCapital-Star Washington Reporter Jacob Fischler writes.

The bad faith use of the constitutional amendment process reduces the power of voters under the guise of increasing itWesley R. Payne IV, of the Philadelphia Bar Association reports. The U.S. has a long and shameful history of treating women like property, opinion regular Michael Coard writes.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey during his swearing-in ceremony on 1/3/21 (<a href="">Pittsburgh City Paper</a> photo).
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey during his swearing-in ceremony on 1/3/21 (Pittsburgh City Paper photo).

Republican governor candidate Doug Mastriano won’t abandon his polarizing personal style in his tight race with Democrat Josh Shapiro, the Inquirer reports.

Pittsburgh city officials are asking the state for the authority to craft their own gun laws, the Post-Gazette reports.

Two north-central Pennsylvania residents have pleaded guilty and admitted to being in the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, PennLive reports.

With $5 million in federal pandemic relief money in hand, Lancaster city officials are seeking affordable housing proposalsLancasterOnline reports.

Sheetz will drop prices for some of its gasoline to below $4/gallon through the July 4 holiday, the Morning Call reports.

Speaking of which, high gas prices aren’t expected to get in the way of travel this holiday weekend, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

The odds are long, but two Philadelphia Democrats, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, and state Sen. Art Haywoodkept up the call for the state to pass a red flag law to curb gun violence, WHYY-FM reports. The new federal gun law provides states with money to implement the laws.

State House Republicans added a provision to a budget bill on Monday requiring Pennsylvania’s four, state-related universities to promise they’re not conducting experiments or research with fetal tissue from elective abortions, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).

GoErie explains why the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion ruling mentions Erie.

PoliticsPA considers whether the fight over abortion rights makes Pennsylvania a one-issue state this fall.

Roll Call’s Nathan Gonzales is urging caution in analyzing poll results in the wake of the high court’s ruling.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The House comes in at 11 a.m., the Senate reconvenes at 12 p.m.
11 a.m., Main Rotunda: The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus explains how the brunt of the U.S. Supreme Court’s horrendous recent rulings disproportionately will fall on people of color.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Maria Collett
8 .m.: Breakfast for Rep. Morgan Cephas
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Greg Rothman
5:30 p.m: Reception for Rep. Jason Dawkins
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out an utterly ridiculous $12,500 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf does his usual 8:07 a.m. phoner with KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh this morning.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from DJ/producer Honey Dijon, featuring Ramona Renea, to get your Tuesday morning off on the right foot. It’s ‘Love is a State of Mind.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link
The Pittsburgh Pirates dropped a 3-2 decision on the road to the Washington Nationals on Monday night. The Pirates are in 3rd place in the NL Central, 11.5 games out of first place.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.