Pennsylvania’s Keystone Corridor is a rail route running east/west across the state linking Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia, roughly parallel to the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76). It was constructed in the early 1900s by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Keystone Corridor handles freight trains and passenger trains. Amtrak operates its Keystone service (Harrisburg – Philadelphia – New York) on the line, as well as its Pennsylvanian service (Pittsburgh – Harrisburg – Philadelphia – New York).
Keystone East refers to the 104-mile-long eastern portion of the Keystone Corridor, between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, owned by Amtrak. This segment is often generally referred to as the Keystone Corridor because it has the most ridership and has been the focus of major infrastructure and Amtrak service improvements since 2000. Keystone West refers to the western portion of the Keystone Corridor, between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, owned by Norfolk Southern.
“Plan the Keystone” is an initiative launched in 2009 to improve conditions for rail passengers at the 12 Keystone Corridor train stations from Harrisburg to Philadelphia. Broadly, the goals are to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, to refurbish or (where necessary) replace the historic station buildings along the line, and to ensure that station improvements complement local revitalization efforts.
When the initiative was originally launched, planning outreach was conducted in each of the 12 communities, with the public and local leaders closely involved. Today, many of those envisioned improvements have been completed, and numerous projects continue to advance from planning through design and construction, as described on this site.
Station needs vary along the Keystone Corridor, but making them accessible (under Americans with Disabilities Act requirements) is a top priority. Expanded parking areas, updated utilities, and historic restoration are other common improvements.
A series of improvements funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Amtrak, and PennDOT has upgraded track and signals on Keystone East, reducing travel time on express trains between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 1 hour, 35 minutes.
The goal for Keystone East is to accommodate top speeds of 125 mph, reducing travel time to 1 hour, 15 minutes, or less. The last remaining public at-grade crossing (Eby Chiques Road in Lancaster County) was replaced by a bridge over the railroad tracks in October 2014, minimizing the risk of train/vehicle collisions. In addition, interlocking upgrades have been designed that would allow trains to change tracks at higher speeds. Construction is dependent upon future funding availability. Also in October 2014, Amtrak placed into service new Amtrak Cities Sprinter (ACS-64) electric locomotives. The high-tech locomotives are designed for improved reliability and easier maintenance compared with the older equipment they replaced, which was up to 35 years old.
The new Eby Chiques Bridge in Rapho Township, Lancaster County, opened in October 2014. This allowed the closing of the last remaining public at-grade crossing on Keystone East, “sealing” the corridor and helping prepare the way for increased train speeds.