Share This Page

Corbett reaches deal to pay to maintain Amtrak route to Pittsburgh

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 4:24 p.m.

A subsidy deal the state announced Thursday ensures passenger trains will continue to roll between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

Gov. Tom Corbett said the state will pay $3.8 million a year to subsidize Amtrak's Pennsylvanian route, a daily round-trip that provides the only passenger rail service between Western Pennsylvania's largest city and the state capital, plus seven small towns between. Amtrak sought at least $5.7 million annually.

“I applaud Amtrak for its willingness to work with my administration on a funding plan that makes sense for Pennsylvania in these difficult economic times and maintains this passenger rail service that provides important connections for many towns in Western Pennsylvania,” Corbett said.

He said the money hinges on the Legislature passing a transportation funding plan.

“This is an exciting day for the people of Pennsylvania, and I want to thank Gov. Corbett and (PennDOT) Secretary (Barry) Schoch for working with us to continue this important service,” Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman said.

PennDOT hasn't subsidized the Pennsylvanian for about two decades, according to the advocacy group Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail. The state covered 20 percent of the route's costs when it began in 1980 and 50 percent two years later when a second daily round-trip began. The subsidy ended in 1994.

The Pennsylvanian's operating costs totaled $16.8 million in 2011, according to a Brookings Institute analysis released this month. At that rate, the state's subsidy would cover about 23 percent of the route's cost.

Amtrak sought the subsidy as part of a change in federal law that requires the railroad to come up with a uniform cost-sharing formula with state governments for routes of up to 750 miles.

“I'd like to read the find print before I celebrate too much, but this certainly sounds like very good news. This service is important to a lot of communities,” said Michael C. Alexander, president of Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail.

About 212,000 passengers used the service last year.

Heading east from Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania stops in Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Tyrone, Huntingdon and Lewiston before reaching Harrisburg. The trip takes about 5- 12 hours, averaging about 45 mph through the mountains and around Altoona's famed Horseshoe Curve. From Harrisburg, it continues east to Philadelphia and New York.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.