Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’

PennDOT Seeks Proposals for TOD on Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor

July 18, 2017

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will seek proposals for transit-oriented development at one or more Amtrak stations on the carrier’s Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Locations to be considered include Harrisburg, Elizabethtown, Mount Joy, Lancaster, Parkesburg and Downingtown

A PennDOT news release said that transit oriented development opportunities could involve soliciting a private partner to provide operation and maintenance services; allowing a private partner to provide parking upgrades either through surface lot expansion or with the construction of parking garage; and if deemed feasible, the ability to provide both residential or commercial development.

One project has already been approved by the state for the station in Middletown.

PennDOT will review proposals to consider market soundness to determine whether to proceed on an individual station basis or whether to bundle more than one station into an agreement.

PennDot Might Sponsor Buses Before Amtrak Service Expands from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh

May 23, 2017

As the Pennsylvania Senate considers approving legislation designed to increase Amtrak service to Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is eyeing sponsoring bus service until Amtrak service can be expanded.

The state funds the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian and is considering funding additional Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Senate Transportation Committee recent voted unanimously in favor of a nine-month review study into adding two more passenger trains between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. The full Senate is expected to vote on the study proposal by the end of June.

The study would be conducted within nine months by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

The resolution also calls for looking at the prospect of adding service between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

A number of steps would need to be taken before the service could become a reality, including making improvements to the Norfolk Southern tracks that the trains would use and negotiating agreements with Amtrak and NS. The route to be used is a busy NS freight line.

Western Pennsylvania interests have long noted that since 2000, the state has invested $400 million to increase passenger service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia from six trains to 14.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency welcomes the review of what it would take to increase passenger service but that earlier studies have shown it would cost $3.75 million to $6 million to add one more passenger train, plus capital improvements estimated at $100 million in 2005.

Kirkpatrick said that in other regions of the country bus service has been paired with Amtrak service.

He said a dedicated bus could connect western Pennsylvania cities with Amtrak’s Keystone Service in Harrisburg to New York and Philadelphia.

Hurdles Remain for Western Pa. Amtrak Expansion

March 4, 2017

Although they continue to push for expanded Amtrak service, public officials in western Pennsylvania acknowledge that finding money for that service is a significant challenge.

“You’ve got a tight budget, so any additional money to expand rail service is tough to come by,” said State Rep. Bryan Barbin, a former member of the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

pennsylvaniaBabin said the proposed service expansion is likely to take time to realize because other projects are high on the state’s list of priorities.

He said the potential hurdles include the state budget, cooperation with Amtrak and negotiations with Norfolk Southern, which own the tracks used by the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

The state-funded Pennsylvanian is the only intercity rail service on the NS line between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Support for additional service has been particularly strong in the Johnstown area. Officials from Johnstown and Cambria County testified last year in favor of the service at a meeting of the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

Support has also come from public officials in Pittsburgh and Altoona.

Babin said that other projects higher on the state’s list of priorities so, “It’s going to be a while.”

Pennsylvanian Congressman Bill Shuster has also expressed support for the expansion.

“I believe these new investments will bring new economic growth to our communities,” said Shuster, who is chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Passenger rail service provides an important link for southwestern Pennsylvania to the rest of the country, and anytime there’s a market demand for new service, it’s something that should be looked at.”

Babin observed that Pennsylvania is operating at a deficit and the legislature is looking at the possibilities of raising taxes, cutting spending and closing loopholes in the state budget.

However, he noted that Pennsylvania spends $18 million per year on passenger rail of which $17 million goes to support trains in the eastern third of the state.

“We need to do the same thing if we’re going to connect the whole state,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the biggest transportation issue for the western part of the state.”

House Transportation Committee Chairman state Rep. John Taylor, of Philadelphia, said he is still committed to expanding rail service in the western part of the state.

“It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together,” said Eric Bugaile, the committee’s executive director. That would mean reaching an agreement among PennDOT, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern officials on the same page.

Aside from state budget challenges, another sticking point is the fact that the NS route to be used by the service is a busy freight corridor.

NS spokesman David Pidgeon said any expanded Amtrak service should not adversely affect NS freight customers.

Pidgeon said NS was amendable to what he termed “viable plans” for expansion, which would take the carrier’s concerns into account.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the carrier continues to work with PennDOT “to provide a thorough evaluation of additional service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Due to the nature of these requests, which often include multiple stakeholders, extensive research and negotiations, they can require a significant amount of time to finalize.”

Timeline Set for Building New Middltown Station

February 1, 2017

Construction of a new $24.4 million Amtrak station in Middletown, Pennsylvania, is projected to begin in late 2018 according to a timeline released by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Amtrak 4PennDOT said that Keystone Connections, a consortium of six partners, has been formed to develop parking and businesses at the station site as well as to construct a pedestrian bridge over Route 230 to the Penn State Harrisburg campus and to extend Emaus Street to the station.

PennDOT said it expects to receive a detailed proposal from Keystone later this year.

The station is a joint project involving PennDot, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern.

The timeline said that site preparation is already underway and expected to be completed by May at a cost of $2.6 million.

NS will then begin track work later this year. That work is expected to cost $4.3 million. Amtrak will start its own track work in late 2018 when station construction gets underway. The Amtrak track work will cost $4.3 million.

Middletown is served by Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor and the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Work Progressing on New Pa. Amtrak Stations

November 8, 2016

Plans for a new Amtrak station in Middletown, Pennsylvania, remain active, but officials are cautioning that it will be a while before construction begins.

penndotAmtrak recently broke ground for a new station in nearby Mount Joy.

Before work on building the Middletown station can begin Amtrak needs to relocate some tracks.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said that work is tentatively set to get underway in mid 2017 depending on the availability of Amtrak and Norfolk Southern track workers.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said his agency is working with Amtrak to relocate a signal box in conjunction with the planned Middletown station, which is slated to be built between the Westporte Centre shopping center and the Ann Street bridge.

Kirkpatrick said the signal box must be moved before the track relocation work can be done.

Proposals to build a pedestrian bridge across West Main Street and a possible parking garage are due in December with contracts likely to be awarded in late 2017 or early 2018.

The groundbreaking for the Mount Joy station occurred on Oct. 26. The $25 million station is expected to take two to three years to complete.

High-level platforms with canopies will replace the current low-level platforms. There will also be elevators, an enclosed stair tower and a pedestrian overpass between the east and westbound platforms. In addition, 42 parking spaces are being added and 112 existing spaces are being improved.

Mount Joy and Middletown are on Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor. Amtrak stations in Elizabethtown and Lancaster were renovated earlier with the Coatesville station expected to be improved.

Lancaster and Elizabethtown are also served by the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Amtrak Wants to Yank Altoona Ticket Agent

September 19, 2016

Amtrak wants to remove its station agents from Altoona, Pennsylvania, although a date for that to happen has not yet been disclosed.

Amtrak 4City officials learned of the plans in a telephone call from Amtrak to city Planning Director Lee Slusser.

However, Slusser said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation must approve the removal of the agent.

An Amtrak spokesman in a subsequent email message said that “Amtrak does not intend to change staffing in Altoona at this time.”

A PennDOT spokesman told the Altoona Mirror that it had no comment and that the agency was not yet aware of any Amtrak plans to end ticket agent service in Altoona.

Amtrak is eyeing providing a caretaker to open the Altoona station a half-hour before train time and keep it open until the train departs.

Altoona is served by the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian, which PennDOT helps to fund.

Amtrak serves about 26,000 passengers a year in Altoona.

Pittsburgh Group Pushing Added Amtrak Service

May 23, 2016

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is supporting efforts to increase the level of Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation for the group, plans to meet with Gov. Tom Wolf to push the service expansion, which she said would cost $10 million to $13 million a year.

“This is a very affordable transportation project,” Beattie said. “This is not an extravagant project. It’s very doable.”

Amtrak logoPittsburgh officials are seeking to increase service from one roundtrip a day to three roundtrips.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation underwrites most of the costs of the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency has asked Amtrak how much it would cost to add one train a day and whether it has the needed equipment and track access.

Under a law approved in 2013, the state has about $8 million a year earmarked for rail service but Kirkpatrick said those funds are already allocated.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the passenger carrier is working on a comprehensive study for the state but he wouldn’t discuss any specifics.

“We are working as fast as we can to put together the information,” Tolbert said. “At this point, I do not have a time frame for when that will be done.”

Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership, said additional Amtrak service would also benefit such communities as Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Tyrone, Huntingdon and Lewistown because they have few public transportation options.

Beattie said that the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg route has the second highest percentage of filled seats among Amtrak’s top 17 routes with patronage having increased every year since 2005 when the service fell from two roundstrips to one with the discontinuance of the Three Rivers.

“We think there’s an unmet demand for more service,” she said. “It can only grow so far with one train.”

Beattie also noted that Pennsylvania helps to fund 14 daily trips on the Harrisburg-to-Philadelphia segment of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia route.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing what the governor has to say about rail, especially service to the western part of the state. [Additional service] would connect parts of the state that aren’t connected now,” she said.

Website Promotes Amtrak Travel in Pennsylvania

December 9, 2015

A new website has been created by Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to promote intercity rail travel in the state.

The site is http://www.patripsbytrain.com/ and is designed to provide  discounts on travel, excursion packages to popular events and destinations in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, New York City and other destinations.

“The Keystone and Pennsylvanian services offer family friendly, convenient transportation options to our residents,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards said. “These excursions are a great way to experience the culture and events our state has to offer while trying a different way to get there.”

Pennsylvania helps make up the operating losses of the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian and the New York-Philadelphia-Harrisburg Keystone Service.