Review and Comment on Future Rail Plans in Virtual Meetings

The future of short-line freight hauling trains, and passenger travel too, are explored in the new draft of Pennsylvania’s “State Rail Plan 2020”

HARRISBURG PA – A 338-page draft of Pennsylvania’s “State Rail Plan 2020” suggests making capital investments valued at billions of dollars in the Commonwealth’s rail system during the next quarter-century, for both commuter and commercial benefits. If you’ve got an opinion on any of its proposals, or maybe want to offer your own, opportunities to let officials know what you think arise this week.

The state Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration have scheduled two virtual meetings – Monday (Nov. 16, 2020) from 4-5 p.m., and Tuesday (Nov. 17) from 6-7 p.m. – for “the public to provide input on the draft.” The document is updated every four years to meet federal requirements, and “we invite residents and stakeholders to help us shape the plan by taking part” in either online session, PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said.

Registration is needed to participate; links to register are available here. If you can’t make the meetings, your comments are still welcome and can be submitted to the state by Dec. 2 (Wednesday) using an online form here.

Of the up to $6 billion that Pennsylvania might consider investing in rails during the next 25 years, the draft states much of the money would be spent on improving safety: at highway-rail at-grade crossings, to minimize derailments, to reduce the opportunity for human error, and to ensure tracks are in good repair.

The commonwealth expects to use the plan to “identify a clear vision for the future of rail transportation, set goals and objectives for achieving that vision, and document and evaluate passenger and freight rail needs over the course of the next 25 years to guide investments,” it said.

Pennsylvania currently serves “as an important link” for commercial freight shipments between the East Coast and the Midwest, according to the report. “Intermodal shipments (trailers or containers on flatcars or double-stack cars) dominate Pennsylvania’s rail traffic,” it explains.

For travelers, commuter rail service is provided in the Greater Philadelphia region primarily through the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Regional Rail system, as well as New Jersey Transit’s Atlantic City Line that connects 30th Street Station to eight stations in southern New Jersey.

Review and Comment on Future Rail Plans in Virtual Meetings
Historic and recreational railroads, such as Boyertown’s Colebrookdale Railroad (above), also are considered in the state-wide draft rail plan

Pennsylvania also hosts 15 heritage and tourist railroads, including the Colebrookdale Railroad in Boyertown, that provide entertaining historic and recreational experiences as well as function as short lines providing rail freight service.

Those who need more information on the meetings and how to access them, have a need for translation or interpretation services, or have special needs that require individual attention are asked to call PennDOT project manager Angela Watson at 717-705-1318, or send her an e-mail to angelwatso@pa.gov.

Photos by The Post