The North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission has proposed plans to rebuild 20 miles of railroad between DuBois and Curwensville. And, Clearfield County stakeholders are seeking support to ensure it’s a part of the state Department of Transportation’s 12-year Long Range Transportation Plan.
Presently, freight to and from the short line railroads in north central Pennsylvania is handled by two primary short line railroads, the R.J. Corman and Genesee & Wyoming. They generally must be interchanged with larger railroads, known as Class I carriers, for transportation outside of the local area, according to the North Central proposal.
As a result, North Central has proposed plans to rebuild the rail connectivity between the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad and R.J. Corman along the old Clearfield & Mahoning Junction Railroad in Clearfield County, said Timothy Potts, who is the local manager for R.J. Corman.
According to the North Central proposal, C&M originally owned a 26-mile line between DuBois and Clearfield. It abandoned and B&P discontinued service over a 17.4-mile segment of the line between DuBois and East Bickford, near Curwensville. On June 15, 1954, the last train ride occurred on the C&M Junction Division of the B&P Railroad from DuBois to Clearfield.
The overall plan is to rebuild 20 miles of railroad following the old C&M Junction Railroad between DuBois and Curwensville. The railroad tracks have been removed throughout the entire corridor and will need rebuilt at approximately $1.5 million per mile. In addition, there is an old bridge carrying short cut road that will need to be retrofitted to allow for continuous train movements, the proposal states.
The overall goal of the project would be to provide companies a direct connection to the Great Lakes and onto other export markets without excessive rail rates. It would also allow direct shipment of freight commodities for new sales opportunities in Canada, according to the North Central proposal.
“The reconnection of rail line between Curwensville and DuBois would significantly enhance commerce activity throughout Clearfield County and support many user’s in our region. The reconnection of this area would drastically reduce shipping costs throughout central Pennsylvania,” said Rob Swales, chief executive officer of the Clearfield County Economic Development Corp.
“It would open local companies up to a broader market of shipping opportunities and overcome significant delays many experience in product delivery.”
According to Potts, the new rail connection would also open up access to the Homer City Generation Plant in Indiana County for R.J. Corman coal producers. This, he said, would be a significant development with the Shawville Generation Plant to cease operations of its coal units in 2015.
“In particular, our region’s coal industry would find this reconnection extremely attractive to move their product to ports for exportation without incurring additional costs in transportation that they currently are exposed to in the delivery process,” said Swales.
Potts added that North Central’s proposed rail plan is not only important to the R.J. Corman and B&P railroads, but also to the coal industry and the economic well-being of Clearfield County. He pointed out that it would directly affect 1,500 mining jobs in the affected counties, as well as the 1.6 jobs that are created by every mining job for a total of 3,900 jobs in the central Pennsylvania area.
“If you don’t think this is important to you, think about this: electricity produced by coal costs 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. Wind and solar cost 22 cents per hour,” said Potts.
“…Think about what this means for your electric bill and think about what it will do to the cost of manufacturing jobs in the area. We need to get our coal to more markets, where it can be used, not just for electric generation but for making steel.”
He added, “Coal, steel and railroads built this country. Let’s not forget that and let’s keep it that way.”
Both Potts and Swales emphasized the importance of having North Central’s proposed rail plan included in PennDOT’s 12-year “Long Range Transportation Plan.” PennDOT will accept comments and support through Dec. 15.
The draft plan is viewable by clicking “Draft Long Range Plan” at www.dot.state.pa.us and includes goals, objectives and recommendations. Comments can be submitted through the “Comment Here” section under “Public Participation.”
In addition to online feedback, comments will be accepted by e-mailing ra-PennDOTLRTP@pa.gov or by mail to PennDOT’s Center for Program Development and Management, c/o Statewide Long Range Planning, P.O. Box 3365, Harrisburg, PA. 17105-3365.