Central Pennsylvania’s SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority recently announced it will invest $8.9 million this year to update more than 200 miles of track and infrastructure.
Projects to replace rail crossings and repair or replace bridges will start this year, according to Steven Beattie, executive director of the Lewisburg-based SEDA-COG JRA.
“Our customers are part of the supply chain. If we’re delaying our customers, then they’re losing and it hurts their bottom line,” Beattie told a local news outlet. “Typically, our maintenance projects are ensuring the integrity of our infrastructure and providing operational efficiencies for our operator.”
The $8.9 million investment will be used to upgrade the entire system, the report said. Capital improvements will be made in Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Montour, and Columbia counties, including $4.8 million for 15 crossing improvements along the Shamokin Valley Railroad and $630,000 for the restoration of a bridge across Fishing Creek near Ruppert on the North Shore Railroad.
SEDA-COG Communications Coordinator Elaine Stauder said the 15 crossings on the Shamokin Valley Railroad will receive upgraded signals and/or surfacing within the City of Sunbury, Upper Augusta Township, Snydertown Borough, Ralpho Township, Coal Township, and City of Shamokin.
The railroad crossing projects are funded by the federal Railway-Highway Crossings Program, which the state administers. The Rail Transportation Assistance Program is funding the bridge rehabilitation, according to Stauder. Some of the infrastructure is over a century old. Many of the bridges have never been touched, Beattie said.
The contracts will be bid on and awarded throughout the year, the report said. Last year, the JRA purchased nine new miles of track from Norfolk Southern in Snyder County, bringing the JRA’s total track mileage to around 215. It was the authority’s first expansion in nearly two decades.
The nine miles of track include 7.7 miles between Selinsgrove and Kreamer and 1.3 miles between Selinsgrove and the Panda Hummel Station in Shamokin Dam. JRA’s operator, North Shore Railroad, made the first run on the Selinsgrove Industrial Track in September of 2022. For the SIT, the SEDA-COG JRA has an operating license and a term lease. The land beneath the railroad remains owned by Norfolk Southern. The JRA owns the track, signals, bridges, and culverts, the report said.
Beattie began his new role on Jan. 3, taking over for Jeff Stover. Beattie began his career as a project manager for local engineering consulting firms such as Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc., where he managed the Lewisburg office.
He later joined the Larson Design Group where he worked in a multitude of roles: Site/Civil Engineering senior project manager, Retail Design senior project manager, and the director of Sales and Marketing. He was most recently the Community Development/Grant manager for the Borough of Lewisburg.
The JRA, based in Lewisburg, was formed to manage approximately 220 miles of rail lines operated by five short line railroads in central Pennsylvania, including Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Union, Northumberland, and Snyder counties.