The Railroad Transportation Assistance Program (RTAP) is bringing millions of dollars to Warren.
Gov. Tom Corbett and PennDOT announced Tuesday the approval of $2.3 million for "Allegheny Eastern Railroad... to re-establish and upgrade tracks in the Warren yard."
Allegheny Eastern is under the umbrella of Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad, which in turn is part of Genesee & Wyoming Railroad.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad Warren Yard off Fourth Avenue
The grant dollars make up the greater portion of a $3.2 million plan for improvements at the yard and along the rails between Irvine and Kane.
"This project is to expand Warren yard with three new tracks and rehab some of our main line," Jerry Vest, Genesee & Wyoming's vice president of government and industry affairs, said. "It is entirely to support our customers in Warren, in particular United Refining. They are a major customer of ours on this line. We really appreciate having them as a customer."
He said the company is honored to have the collaborative effort of PennDOT and Corbett behind it on the project.
The project is the second phase of a program that already added a 2,500-foot storage track and "improved the existing physical plant at the west end of the yard including new switches," said Ryan Maxwell, transportation manager of Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad's Warren office.
Vest said that portion of the project enabled the railroad to increase the amount of traffic it can handle locally.
"That's been a great help," he said.
Phase II will continue in that direction.
"This will help address capacity and operational traffic flow," Erin Waters-Trasatt of PennDOT's press office said.
The changes are intended to improve the railroad's ability to "support ever-increasing business at United and additional traffic from Marcellus gas projects," Maxwell said.
The project extends beyond the Warren yard.
"It's not just a yard project," Maxwell said. "This grant also includes main line improvement... Kane to Irvine will see some improvements with this grant."
"The project is shovel-ready," Vest said. "Construction should start before the end of this year."
The upgrades to the physical plant in the area will reflect recent increases in staffing and operations.
"We have more crews based out of Warren than we have in previous years. We've already seen an increase of one train crew" (two people), Maxwell said. "We've been running more trains than we have been in the past."
"That's really become a really busy railroad," he said. "We're doing some good things there."
Corbett approved about $27.5 million in RTAP funds over 15 counties, $6 million in Railroad Freight Assistance Program (RFAP) to 14 counties, and another $1.3 million from Marcellus Shale impact fees to projects in four counties.
"Pennsylvania has more operating railroads than any other state, and investing in our rail freight network keeps these invaluable assets in prime position to generate economic growth and jobs," Corbett said. "Improving rail networks not only spurs our economy, it also increases safety by helping ease traffic on our highways."
"Through these grants awarded today, we are making an important investment in updating and improving our railroads, which are helping to reduce congestion and pollution," State Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-25) said in a Tuesday press release. "Providing for strong transportation infrastructure across our Commonwealth is a critical part of continuing to create a strong economic future for Pennsylvania."