A state transportation official offered a glimmer of optimism when announcing that Norfolk Southern Corp. had agreed to conduct a study concerning the push to expand passenger rail service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh – through Johnstown.
Currently, passengers can’t ride a train from Johnstown to Pittsburgh and return in the same day – limiting rail’s impact as an option for workers and tourists. Amtrak’s round-trip service goes west from Johnstown in the evening and moves east in the morning.
Jennie Granger, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for multimodal transportation, addressed a gathering Monday at the Holiday Inn Johnstown-Downtown. The meeting was hosted by the Cambria Regional Chamber.
“Amtrak runs one train a day, round-trip, which is not near enough frequency,” Granger said. “The issue at hand is, because Norfolk Southern owns that track, they can say who does not run on it. If they don’t want Amtrak on it, they don’t have to let them run another train a day.
“That’s all there is to it.”
Many from the Johnstown region have been pushing for expanded passenger rail service between this city and Pittsburgh, and reaching also to Altoona and perhaps one day State College.
The project has been embraced by state, county and municipal leaders, tourism officials and economic development professionals – all of whom recognize the enormous impact adding another daily run could have for the Johnstown region.
Gov. Tom Wolf commissioned a $500,000 PennDOT passenger rail study last year.
“It seems like there’s a big desire from this area to go west,” Granger said. “There’s also a desire that I hear from Pittsburgh to go eastward.”
This important train project is developing “incrementally,” Granger said, characterizing Norfolk’s willingness to explore the possibility as “progress.”
“Then we keep fighting the good fight,” she said.
We agree, and we know local leaders will continue their push for this crucial transportation option.