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Westmoreland track to be fixed using $1.1M state grant

| Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, 11:36 p.m.

Westmoreland County will use a $1.1 million state grant to repair a 3-mile section of track on a county-owned railway that serves the Marcellus shale natural gas industry.

Officials said worn track has led to safety concerns along the 33-mile Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad line that runs between Greensburg and Fairchance in Fayette County.

Westmoreland County owns the railroad line and leases the tracks to a private company that operates freight service used by natural gas drilling sites in the county with truck-to-train transport.

“It will just lead to a safer rail network and improve efficiencies served by the railroad,” said county planning director Jason Rigone.

Officials have identified nearly 8 miles of track that is in need of repairs.

The grant from PennDOT will pay for work on 3 miles of track near Hunker, Rigone said.

The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. will pay about $471,000 toward the $1.6 million project.

Carload Express, the private freight operator that operates on the line, will contribute $29,000, according to county officials.

“The continued rehabilitation of the ... railroad is another example of the county's creative public/private partnership arrangements ... and by keeping approximately 42,876 long-haul trucks per year off the commonwealth's roadways, safety is improved on our highways,” county Commissioner Ted Kopas said in a news release.

The work in the Hunker area is the first of three phases needed to fix the nearly 8 miles of track in need of rehabilitation, Rigone said.

No grant money has been sought for the final phases.

“We're doing as much as we can do with the money that is available,” Rigone said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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