improving train travel between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg

Amtrak's Pennsylvanian service on the Keystone West corridor between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg currently offers one train each direction per day. The 250-mile rail journey takes roughly two hours longer than making the trip by car.

Mountainous terrain is the primary reason passenger trains on Keystone West currently operate at an average speed of only 45 mph. There are also numerous at-grade crossings and limited opportunities for passenger trains to pass slower freight trains.

PennDOT initially examined options for improving passenger service on Keystone West as part of a 2011 study undertaken in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Norfolk Southern (NS), owner of the Keystone West rail line.

Over the last several years, passengers and stakeholders continued to express the need for additional Pennsylvanian service on Keystone West to provide more travel opportunities between Pittsburgh and destinations to the east, including New York City. PennDOT coordinated with NS to initiate an operational feasibility study, completed by NS in Fall 2021, that evaluates the impact of modified and expanded Amtrak rail service on NS freight tracks between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The study identified infrastructure improvements necessary to maintain freight traffic, while allowing for expanded passenger rail service. The study addresses potential capital requirements for operating two trains each direction per day along NS tracks.

In February 2022, PennDOT and NS announced that they will enter into an operating agreement and begin to design and implement improvements required to facilitate additional passenger rail service on the NS-owned corridor west of Harrisburg. Passenger rail investment funds included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), passed by Congress in November 2021, will allow PennDOT to redirect funding to the Keystone West corridor that had been set aside for new train set costs.

After the agreement is finalized, work will begin on improvements identified in the study. The improvements are expected to be completed over a period of five years, with expanded passenger rail service feasible upon completion.



Executive Summary
Thumbnail image of the Keystone West Feasibility Report & Service Development Plan Executive Summary.

An overview of the Keystone West Feasibility Report & Service Development Plan.

Feasibility Report & Service Development Plan
Thumbnail image of the Keystone West Feasibility Report & Service Development Plan report cover.

The full report analyzing the needs, challenges, options, costs, and benefits of reducing travel time between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. It includes an environmental overview, alignment alternatives, potential rail operations improvements, financial analysis, and next steps for carrying projects from a conceptual level through to completion.

Menu of Options
Thumbnail image of the Keystone West Feasibility Report & Service Development Plan Menu of Options cover.

A summary of potential projects that could be undertaken individually or in combination, as funding allows, each providing independent utility and incremental improvement toward the long-term goal of reducing travel time on Keystone West.