The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation yesterday released a plan that provides a framework for potential rail development during the next 25 years.
The Pennsylvania Intercity Passenger and Freight Rail Plan details future capacity and infrastructure needs to maintain and improve the state’s rail networks. The review includes both passenger and freight lines as well as regional and local rail systems.
“This plan outlines what we want Pennsylvania’s rail system to look like in 25 years and identifies our challenges in achieving those goals,” Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler said in a statement. “We now have a complete inventory of our passenger and freight rail infrastructure and we know the needs that each mode will face in the future.”
“Having a sound plan is a first step toward a smart planning approach, but there is no getting around the fact that transportation funds are shrinking, and especially now that revenue from Act 44 will be dramatically reduced,” he said.
Act 44 is a way for the state to help fund its transportation needs. The initiative involves PennDOT receiving payments from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and included potential toll revenue from Interstate 80. On April 6, the Federal Highway Administration denied the state’s request to implement tolls on I-80, which was projected to generate $60 billion for the state over 50 years.
Overall goals of the rail plan include bringing passenger and freight rail systems to a state of good repair and maintaining that quality level, integrating the different networks to provide coordination and seamless connections, increasing both passenger and rail capacity, promoting safety and energy efficiency, and creating a stable and predictable funding for rail infrastructure, among other goals.
In looking at the state’s passenger rails, the plan suggests upgrading Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor East, which connects Philadelphia and Harrisburg, in order for trains to run at 125 miles per hour; increasing service between Pittsburgh and Cleveland on the Keystone Corridor West line, and increasing rail service between Scranton, New Jersey, and New York. The plan also recommends high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor from Boston through New York City and Philadelphia to the District of Columbia.
The plan identified six core freight-rail networks that would benefit from investment to improve capacity and service.
Funding possibilities include federal and state funds, the creation of new government agencies to finance projects, potential public-private partnerships, sale and lease of land holdings, and such revenue streams as taxes on alcoholic drinks served at bars and restaurants, along with parking and hotel taxes, and local fuel taxes.