2nd Train to Pittsburgh Hinges on NS Study

Norfolk Southern is conducting a study that it expects to complete in the second half of 2020 of capital improvements it wants to see before agreeing to host a second Amtrak train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Amtrak currently operates the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian over the route and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation along with local officials have been pressing for several years for additional service.

Communities along the route want the option of being able to travel to Pittsburgh on day trips.

The Pennsylvanian is scheduled to depart Pittsburgh in early morning and arrive in the evening.

Jennie Granger, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for multimodal transportation said this week that her agency has asked Amtrak to consider adding a second train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

“What would it take?” she said PennDOT asked the national passenger carrier. “What would a second round-trip train a day look like? Give us a timetable. Ideally, how would this work with the Keystone trains on the eastern part of the state? How would we make it work with Penn Station, going into New York?”

In response Amtrak gave PennDOT a proposed timetable that it presented to Norfolk Southern.

Granger said NS responded that it would need to do a study that the state would need to fund. “The study itself is a lot like a traffic study,” Granger said. “It takes into account their freight movements, both historically and what they’re projecting going forward … and then, how does that interact with our proposed two trains a day?”

Granger told a luncheon meeting of the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, that because NS owns the track, it can say who does or does not run on it.

“If they don’t want Amtrak on it, they don’t have to let them run another train a day. That’s all there is to it,” she said.

Once the NS study had been completed and presented to PennDOT, Granger said the agency will “have a better-educated idea of how to proceed with that service.”

The demands that NS is likely to make will be hefty.

During a August 28 Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee meeting in Altoona NS spokesman Rudy Husband said the Pittsburgh Line is already stretched to capacity with 40 to 60 trains a day.

He said adding more passenger rail service could require the construction of separate portions of track or of an entire separate track.

Husband argued that NS is not opposed to passenger rail, but that adding more service is complicated.

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