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Monday, November 09, 2009

Pennsylvania, four other states seek $300 million to improve rail lines

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Pennsylvania and four other states are seeking stimulus money to make upgrades to their rail systems, including the proposed intermodal terminal in Greencastle, the Chambersburg Public Opinion Website reports. Pennsylvania was a co-signer of an application for $300 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, according to PennDOT spokesperson Rich Kirkpatrick.

If approved, the money would be used to make improvements to the rail system along Norfolk Southern's Crescent Corridor, which stretches from the Gulf Cost to the Northeast.

Company spokesperson Rudy Husband said in Pennsylvania that includes the proposed intermodal yard in Antrim Township, expansions to an intermodal facility in Harrisburg and other track and signal improvements throughout Pennsylvania.

The I-81 Corridor Coalition is supporting the request for stimulus money.

"The Crescent Corridor extends past the end of I-81, however, for several hundred miles, the core line does parallel I-81, hence our interest in seeking the funds," said Rick Rovegno, coalition member and Cumberland County commissioner. "If that additional freight rail capacity is realized, the through freight that would be able to be placed on rail would be equivalent to several thousand tractor-trailers daily."

Commercial freight volumes are expected to nearly double by 2035.

Norfolk Southern estimates that the upgrades to 2,500 miles of track along the Crescent Corridor could divert more than one million trucks annually to rail. In Pennsylvania, the company estimates that about 690,000 trucks would be taken off the highways.

"I feel that transportation and the related impact is as great a concern as any issue that's before us in the Cumberland Valley," Rovegno said.

Pennsylvania joined Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia in applying for the stimulus money. Kirkpatrick said the $300 million, if approved, would add to $500 million coming from Norfolk Southern and other state partners to make improvements to the rail system.

On Nov. 2, Gov. Ed Rendell and Norfolk Southern announced $11 million in improvements to the Philadelphia Navy Yard Intermodal Facility.

The $5 million in state funding is included in a $45-million commitment Rendell made on Aug. 12, when construction of a new intermodal facility in Greencastle was announced. The state allocation, over three years, will be joined by Norfolk Southern's $79 million and an anticipated $61 million in federal support.

Norfolk Southern said in addition to the $95 million rail yard near Greencastle, it plans $52 million in improvements for its existing Harrisburg intermodal terminal, along with $27 million in track and signal upgrades in Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties.

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