NS Wants Track Changes, Residents Do Not

Written by Bill Wilson, Engineering Editor; and Editor-in-Chief, Railway Track & Structures
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PennDOT awarded Norfolk Southern a $20 million grant so it could raise bridges and lower track in north Pittsburgh. Photo via: Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern (NS) wants to double-stack its trains as they move through Pittsburgh, but residents in the north side of the city are stacking up arguments and fighting back.

A mediator has been appointed to represent the residents in Pittsburgh’s north side as talks continue with Norfolk Southern. The Class I railroad company wants to raise bridges at Pennsylvania and West North avenues, lower the tracks at Columbus Avenue Bridge and build a new Merchant Street Bridge. The track is lower in spots along the route through the city, but NS says it cannot go any deeper in some areas. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) gave NS a $20 million grant for the work on the bridges. NS will be contributing $8.2 million.

Rail traffic also will be on the rise in the area, from about 25 a day to as many as 50.

Residents are concerned about the noise pollution that accommodates more trains and more freight cars. A group tried to get in on the Public Utility Commission’s consideration of the proposed bridges, but the PUC did not side with the concerns.

The mediator representing the citizens of the north side says he wants to work with the railroad to come up with a solution both sides will agree on. PennDOT released a report that failed to recommend the best way to handle double-stacked rail freight, so the agency is currently meeting with community groups to take in all concerns. The study did say if the railroad cannot use the grant to fix the bridge the responsibility would fall on the city.

The project is already in motion out in the suburbs, but no work has begun in the city since the grant was awarded in April 2017.

Categories: Class I, Freight, M/W, News Tags: ,