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April 25, 2017 12:00 PM, EDT

Norfolk Southern to Develop Second Pittsburgh Route for Double-Stack Freight Cars

Raymond Shobe/Flickr

Last June, a landslide from the Mount Washington hillside in Pittsburgh pretty much closed the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks near Station Square for 11 days, crippling the company’s ability to move double-stack freight cars through the region.

The railroad expects to address that situation with the help of a $20 million state grant to help upgrade another route through Pittsburgh that can accommodate double-stack cars. That grant was among $22.7 million in funds approved April 24 by the State Transportation Commission for railroad projects in Allegheny County.

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David Pidgeon, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, said the railroad will make improvements at 14 bridge crossings, in Pittsburgh, Swissvale and Braddock, but he didn’t have their exact locations. The work, part of a $28.6 million project, will involve either raising the bridges or lowering the railroad bed to provide clearance for the double-stack cars on a second route through the city.

“What that landslide showed is [that] a choke point can be created when that is the only route through the city that can take double-stack cars, which is the industry standard,” Mr. Pidgeon said. “Now, we’re going to be able to create an alternate route for that flow of goods to continue when something like that happens.

“Having the ability to adjust and be nimble is needed by the railroad and by our customers who depend on us to deliver their goods.”

The railroad upgraded the route through the South Side to handle double-stack cars earlier this decade.

Mr. Pidgeon said the railroad has entered into a partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for this project because many of the 14 bridges already were scheduled for updates by the state. PennDOT officials couldn’t be reached for comment on that partnership.

The recipients of the other grants approved April 24 were:

• Allegheny Valley Railroad Co., $1,032,168 ($1.5 million total cost) to rehabilitate the 36th Street Trestle bridge to increase capacity by eliminating weight restrictions.

The bridge, part of a system of local railroads operated by Carload Express Inc., runs parallel to the Allegheny River near 33rd Street in the Strip District. It connects the system’s Pittsburgh-Allison Park/North Hills route to the Pittsburgh-New Kensington route.

“This will allow us to complete the modernization of a trestle that is a key junction point between several of our routes,” J. Alex Lang, Carload’s chief information officer, said in a statement.

• Tube City IMS, $700,000 ($1 million) to rehabilitate more than a mile of track including ties, ballast, turnout reconfiguration and surfacing in West Mifflin.

• U.S. Steel Corp.’s Union Railroad Co., $700,000 ($1 million) to rehabilitate more than four miles of track, including about 4,750 new ties and ballast, but the company couldn’t provide the exact location.

• U.S. Steel Corp., $279,830 ($399,758) to rehabilitate about a mile of track, install two switches and improve drainage, but the company couldn’t provide the exact location.

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