Modern, safe, reliable access to passenger rail is expanding in Western PA

PennDOT has finalized an agreement with Norfolk Southern Corporation to expand passenger rail service on the Pennsylvanian Amtrak line in Western Pennsylvania providing more Pennsylvanians with access to modern, safe, reliable passenger rail that gets them where they need to go and better connects Pennsylvania communities while bringing jobs, economic development, and infrastructure investment along with it.

“This agreement lays the groundwork for expanded passenger rail service in Western Pennsylvania while simultaneously preserving a critical freight rail corridor,” said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. “Ensuring more Pennsylvanians have access to safe and reliable transportation to Western PA will reduce commute times, help connect hundreds of thousands of residents, and boost local economies. This expansion of service on the Pennsylvanian will provide key mobility and economic benefits.” 

The Pennsylvanian Amtrak service currently travels roundtrip between New York City and Pittsburgh via Harrisburg once daily, but this new agreement now supports increasing those Pennsylvanian passenger services to twice a day. To support the expanded operations, the Commonwealth will invest more than $200 million in infrastructure and safety improvements that will be constructed and maintained by Norfolk Souther. PennDOT has applied for grant funds through the Federal Railroad Administration to help pay for these improvements.

The future improvements and construction will stem from a previously released Norfolk Southern operational feasibility study requested by PennDOT and includes upgraded rail lines, sidings, and necessary communications signals infrastructure. The renegotiated agreement with Norfolk Southern for the infrastructure work needed to support the additional Pennsylvanian ensures that safety and the best interests of the Commonwealth are fully addressed.   

"Norfolk Southern is excited to build upon our partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by increasing passenger rail options for the citizens of Pennsylvania while improving the resilience of our infrastructure for the shippers in the Commonwealth,” said Norfolk Southern Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan. “This is a win-win agreement that would not be possible without the dedication and collaboration of our state officials, who share our vision for enhanced rail service across the Keystone State.”

The Pennsylvanian is a key passenger rail route connecting the citizens of the Keystone State from east to west, and, in conjunction with the Capitol Limited, with Cleveland, Chicago and beyond. The Pennsylvanian travels Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Line, which is part of the Premier Corridor, a main artery for double-stack intermodal traffic moving between Chicago and metropolitan New York. It is one of the busiest and fastest links on Norfolk Southern’s network, connecting with major terminals in Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and the Lehigh Valley. In a typical year, more than half of Norfolk Southern’s time-sensitive parcel and less-than-truckload shipments use the route at some point. The company’s trains deliver or pick up freight at 140-plus locations along the corridor, serving more than 800 customers. 

“We look forward to working with PennDOT and Norfolk Southern on this expansion of Amtrak service in the Commonwealth,” said Amtrak Vice President of State Supported Services Ray Lang.

Pennsylvania has 65 operating railroads – the most of any state in the country – and ranks fifth in total track mileage with more than 5,600 miles. The 2020 Pennsylvania State Rail Plan (PDF) reported that in 2017, 193.5 million tons of freight in 4.9 million railcars moved over the state's rail transportation system.