State's rail model has bright future

The future of rail was discussed by PennDOT and its stakeholders last week.
Amy Wise, executive director of Huntingdon County Business and Industry (HCBI), attended the public rail meeting in State College — one of three across the state. In talking to those PennDOT representatives, Wise said she was a bit frustrated with the reception.“It was an interesting public meeting in that there really wasn’t a presentation per se,” Wise said. “There were a lot of materials on display boards and a lot of folks floating around from the PennDOT Rail Freight division.”
“As many times as we’ve (talked about the lack of a fourlane highway and public transportation), they all look at me like they’ve never heard this before,” she said. “We have a taxi service, which is wonderful. We have an Amtrak stop, but it’s only one stop each direction daily. We don’t have Greyhound; we don’t have commuter service.”
Wise added she was a bit confounded by the issue, adding part of the issue is a change in the commonwealth’s top administrator.
“There were a lot of new faces,” she said. She went on to say the state rail plan is a federal requirement. “This plan is, number one, to fulfill the federal requirement,” she said. Wise went on to say the plan is “pretty detailed,” but added it is frustrating because it includes very few of the recommendations from the Keystone West study. That study called for increased stops on the Amtrak line westward from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, along the Keystone West corridor.
“One of the main topics (discussed at the meeting) was the expected increase in freight along the Keystone West corridor, which is surprising the hit coal has taken,” Wise said. “PennDOT is expecting other industries to pick up that slack.”
Wise went on to say she also learned during the meeting the Keystone East corridor — from Harrisburg to Philadelphia — has “two different federal designations that open it up to additional pots of federal funding.”
“There is an enhanced focus on continued upgrades to the Keystone East,” Wise said. “That’s a little frustrating because Keystone West will most likely not get those designations.”
Wise went on to say the meeting is the first time she had “heard PennDOT officials speak publicly about increasing Amtrak west of Harrisburg.”
“The conversation is occurring,” she said. “Overall, there is a definitely a great deal of work that went into this plan and rail will continue to be extremely important.”
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