A Railway Age Short Line of the Year claimed the latest win in the ongoing court fight over its central Pennsylvania operations.
Commonwealth Court on June 28 ordered most of the case remanded to a county court judge to consider new facts in the claims over five short line railroads.
The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority on July 8, 2015, voted to award a seven-year, multimillion-dollar operating contract to Carload Express of Oakmont, Pa., to operate the former Susquehanna Union Railroad Companies over its 200 miles of track around Northumberland, Pa. Those lines include the North Shore Railroad, honored by Railway Age in 2017.
The complicated case began when the authority refused to award the contract, explaining that it needed nine votes from its 16-member board to approve. The 7-3 vote included six abstentions, including five from board members claiming business ties to the short lines.
County Judge Michael F. Salisbury at the authority’s request confirmed nine votes were needed to award a contract. But a three-member Commonwealth Court panel overturned his ruling, saying the law allows contracts to be awarded with a simple majority of the board members in attendance. The latest appellate court ruling followed a motion for re-argument by Susquehanna Union.
The authority previously voted to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court. It is not know what effect the new ruling will have on that potential move.
Susquehanna Union is challenging the vote, disputing the need for five of the abstentions and citing irregularities in the ranking by another member of the contract finalists that would have tied Susquehanna with Carload Express. It contends that several authority members voted for Carload based on its top ranking.
Susquehanna Union also operates the Juniata Valley; Lycoming Valley; Nittany & Bald Eagle, and Shamokin Valley. Another Susquehanna affiliate, Union County Industrial, also operates over a portion of the Joint Rail Authority track.