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Keystone West

Thank you for submitting comments on the Keystone West High Speed Rail Study between February 13, 2015 and March 31, 2015. Click to view the Public Comment Summary (1.4MB pdf).

Is higher-speed train service feasible between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg?

The Journey Today: Amtrak offers passenger rail service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, but there is only one train each direction per day, and the journey takes 5.5 hours one way (two hours longer than making the trip by car). The major challenge to higher-speed rail along the 250-mile Keystone West route is its mountainous terrain, especially between Johnstown and Altoona. Steep grades, sharp curves, limited opportunities for passing slower freight trains, numerous at-grade crossings, and aging infrastructure all contribute to increased travel times. Keystone West passenger trains currently operate at an average speed of 45 mph, up to a maximum of 79 mph in certain stretches.

Analyzing Improvements: PennDOT, in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration and Norfolk Southern (owner of the Keystone West rail line), undertook the Keystone West High Speed Rail study in 2011 to identify and evaluate the feasibility of options to reduce passenger rail travel times and increase trip frequency—without hindering the important freight service that runs on the same tracks. The Feasibility Report and Preliminary Service Development Plan was approved by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2014. As it is a conceptual-level study, additional detailed technical investigation, analysis, and design would be required before undertaking any of the recommended actions.

Keystone West High Speed Rail Study Documents

Executive Summary (700K): An overview of the Keystone West Feasibility Report & Service Development Plan.

Feasibility Report & Service Development Plan (11MB): 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 (3.8MB): 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.