Amtrak Begins Major Harrisburg Line Track Renewal 

Written by Amtrak, Agency Communications
Jim Blaze photo
Jim Blaze photo

PHILADELPHIA – Amtrak is investing $122 million in Pennsylvania to improve tracks on the Harrisburg Line, between Lancaster and Harrisburg. This work will improve ride quality and comfort, increase service reliability and complete necessary work required to keep the tracks in a state of good repair. 

“Amtrak is making historic infrastructure investments through projects like this one, which will replace obsolete 1950s-era rail infrastructure which is at the end of its useful life,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President of Capital Delivery Laura Mason. “We’re taking a fresh approach and expediting this important project with a combination of single and full track outages that will improve work efficiencies and reduce the duration of customer impacts.”  

Amtrak is accelerating the project to replace this aging rail infrastructure and will complete the work in nearly half the original estimated timeline of two years. To extend the long-term benefits of the project, Amtrak will replace the existing wood ties with concrete ties, which have an expected lifespan of 60 years vs. 25 years for traditional wood ties.  

The project began on March 15 and the work will require a series of significant track outages from April 8 – Nov. 21. During that period, Keystone Service trains between Lancaster (LNC) and Harrisburg, Pa. (HAR) only will be replaced with buses from approximately 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays. There will also be various schedule adjustments Friday through Sunday and weekday mornings and evenings. Customers should check or the Amtrak mobile app for the latest schedules. 

Amtrak Pennsylvanian trains that operate between Pittsburgh and New York City will still provide daily midday service through the project area, featuring additional seating capacity. The weekday service cancellations will affect fewer than 450 daily Keystone Service customers and substitute transportation (buses) will be provided to mitigate the impact. Overall project completion is expected in late December, after the significant track outage concludes.  

Amtrak is working together with state partners at PennDOT to preserve ridership and help ensure the continued success of the partnership. In addition, Amtrak is working closely with Norfolk Southern and impacted freight shippers to minimize the disruption to their operations during the project. 

Project Benefits  

This work will help to improve ride quality, increase service reliability and address necessary track maintenance. Specific details include:  

  • Installing 43 track miles of rail, replacing nearly 100% of rail in this territory 
  • Installing 113,000 concrete ties, each weighing approximately 900 pounds. That’s nearly 51,000 US tons, or the weight of more than 29,000 small SUVs 
  • Cleaning and refreshing 226,500 feet of gravel track bed, or ballast, to support the track structure and improve drainage 

The project will also help support the local economy with more than 250 employees patronizing area businesses, including gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores. The concrete ties used are manufactured in Bear, Del., and the ballast for the track structure will be purchased from a quarry in Birdsboro, Pa.  

Schedule Adjustments  

  • Beginning April 8 and continuing through Nov. 21, Keystone Service trains will not operate between Harrisburg (HAR) and Lancaster (LNC) from approximately 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday  
  • Substitute bus service will be provided with four daily round trips 
  • There will be various schedule adjustments Friday through Sunday and weekday mornings and evenings. Customers should check or the Amtrak mobile app for the latest schedules.  
  • Bus customers should plan to add approximately 45 minutes to their normal train trip
  • Pennsylvanian service will not be affected; customers are encouraged to consider this option 
  • Further updates related to parking will be forthcoming between now and the start of the track outages 
  • Service will be adjusted with each phase of the project, please check for schedule changes   
  • Once the track outage concludes on Nov. 21, customers may notice minor delays through the area until the project is completed 
  • Customers should always check for up to date train schedules online at or in the Amtrak mobile app 

Continued Improvements  

Much of the rail infrastructure Amtrak operates on across the Northeast Corridor (NEC) was last renewed in the 1970s. This infrastructure is now approaching the time for replacement and modernization. Historically, Amtrak has fully renewed approximately 30 miles of track per year. This project will support the company’s accelerated plan of renewing more than 55 miles of track in the coming year, an increase of nearly 85%.  

As Amtrak enters a new era of rail, the company has made unprecedented investments to improve Northeast Corridor infrastructure. Due to the scope and scale of investment demands, Amtrak is implementing new and innovative strategies to promote efficient and productive infrastructure project completion. This includes expanding construction outage schedules in the short term that helps to accelerate work and complete projects faster, while minimizing long-term impacts to customers and train service.  

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