SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, North Shore to benefit from grants
HARRISBURG - A joint rail authority and railroad line will benefit from Gov. Tom Corbett's transportation funding package after grants were awarded Tuesday for rail freight improvement projects.
The Office of the Governor announced 33 projects will receive a total of $34.7 million in grant money approved by the state transportation commission.
The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority (JRA), of Lewisburg, will receive $1.8 million in funding, according to a PennDOT release. JRA executive director Jeff Stover said he is pleased to hear about the funding.
"This will help each of the five railways under the SEDA-COG banner," Stover said. "The grant is 70 percent of the funding, while the rest will come from the authority."
SEDA-COG will use the money to help rehabilitate nine bridges on its five rail systems that will support 315,000-pound cars. One such bridge transverses the banks of the Shamokin Creek, carrying the Shamokin Valley Line between Shamokin and Paxinos.
The North Shore Railroad will also benefit from the funding, receiving $250,000 for the first of two phases of a project consisting of constructing 1,500 feet of new track in its Northumberland railyard.
SEDA-COG's funding will come from the state's Rail Transportation Assistance Program, a capital budget grant program funded with bonds.
North Shore's funding will come from the Rail Freight Assistance Program, a new program underwritten by the new Multi-Modal Fund, created by Corbett's "Decade of Investment" plan.
The plan invests an additional $2.3 to $2.4 billion into roads, bridges and transit systems by the fifth year of the plan. The revenue will increase through a gradual removal of the cap on the state Oil Company Franchise Tax over five years, a change that's already being blamed for high gasoline prices for consumers.
In the release, Corbett said investing in the rail systems will have many benefits, including the preservation of 43,000 jobs across the state.
"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 in the release.
The governor also said that improving rail systems increase safety by helping to ease traffic on highways.