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Monday, April 26, 2010

Pennsylvania Rail in 2035

PennDOT released their rail plan for 2035.

I was happy to see that the Pittsburgh airport connector (and many other small projects) deemed too expensive for the expected results. PennDOT is attempting to focus on the big picture and projects like the Mon-Fayette expressway and MagLev airport connector are just too small potatoes.

As it is, they've come up with a whopping 7 corridors on which to focus, and we'll be lucky to make headway on 3 of them.

1. The I-95 Corridor, also known as the big money corridor, connecting Philadelphia to New York City and Washington, DC. This corridor

2. Keystone East - PennDOT's success story between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. PennDOT has very specific goals in mind for this route - reducing travel time even further and will inevitably meet those goals well before 2035. Earlier this year, the corridor received 26.4 million for improvements along the route.

3. Keystone West - the connection between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. In January, PennDOT received $750,000 to perform a study on improving Keystone West. Given the lack of specific outlined goals for this project, I expect another study will be in the works by 2035.

4. Lehigh Valley - This Harrisburg direct-connect to New York City line is one of the least-developed, but it would be a great coup for Harrisburg.

5. Scranton-New York City. This is the new love-child between PennDOT and New Jersey Transit. The two agencies are working together to make rapid progress on this section of the state. I'm sure it also doesn't hurt that Vice President Joe Biden is from Scranton.

6. The Southwest Corridor. This corridor is vital to the Pittsburgh region, ultimately improving our connections from Washington, DC all the way to Chicago. Right now, this is also the only project in the region on the receiving end of any serious money. Unfortunately, it also has the furthest to go in terms of reaching high-speed passenger rail. Hopefully, by 2035, we're in a state where all the groundwork has been laid.

7. The Erie Corridor. Quite honestly, this one seems like an afterthought. Penn DOT is effectively saying that if New York and Ohio want to plan it, they'll go along.

The real story in this report appears to be the National Gateway project. This is a public-private partnership netting millions of Federal dollars, crossing multiple state lines, and intended to improve our freight corridors. They claim that as a side effect of improving the freight movement in the country that rail schedules will be "freed up for additional passenger and commuter services." The bottom line is that in Southwestern Pennsylvania, freight is king, whether it be coal barges in the rivers or coal trains on our tracks. I just hope that tied to this National Gateway money is a guarantee that the CSX corp will actually make room for efficient passenger rail service instead of just using the rail for more and more freight service.

If you want to see PennDOT's plan for yourself, click here.

1 comment:

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