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Pennsylvania Invests Millions In Freight Rail Infrastructure

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
A freight train rolls along the South Side of Pittsburgh in this July photo. Pennsylvania leads the nation in active railroad companies.

The mournful blast of freight trains as they roll through Pittsburgh is a familiar sound. And with good reason. 

Freight rail is a bit deal in Pennsylvania, with more than 60 operating railroads and 5,600 miles of track crisscrossing the state. But like the rest of the state’s infrastructure, it’s in constant need of upkeep.

“There is a lot of need. It’s not a static environment,” said PennDOT communications director Rich Kirkpatrick. “It’s just the nature of things that things wear out over time. So there simply has to be continued investment to keep all of these transportation networks in a state of good repair.”

The Pennsylvania State Transportation Commission voted Tuesday to approve $32 million for freight rail improvement projects across the state. Kirkpatrick said the work is crucial to keep the state’s economy humming.

“The efficient movement of goods plays an integral role in providing the opportunity for companies to thrive,” he said. “Meaning that there are going to be good-paying jobs for people.”

The 27 projects that received funding range from the replacement of railroad bridges in Allegheny, Washington and Clearfield counties to rehabilitating sections of track to allow businesses to move goods into and out of their facilities. More than $3 million will be used to build 10 miles of track to serve Shell’s cracker plant in Beaver County.

Shell was not immediately available to comment.

Kirkpatrick said the money approved by the commission is just the state’s share, the private companies will be pitching in, as well. The total cost of the projects is closer to $46 million.

Pennsylvania invests money in maintaining passenger rail, but freight rail funding is separate.