November 17, 2020 SEPTA, Amtrak, PennDOT partnership results in $15.9 million federal grant to improve the Harrisburg Line between Paoli and Overbrook

PHILADELPHIA – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), in partnership with Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), has received $15.9 million through the FRA’s Federal-State Partnership for the State of Good Repair Grant program to improve signals on the Amtrak-owned Harrisburg line, also known as the Keystone Line.

The railroad is owned, maintained, and dispatched by Amtrak, and the line serves Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian and Keystone Service intercity rail services in partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Between William H. Gray III 30th Street Station and Thorndale, the Harrisburg Line also hosts SEPTA’s Paoli-Thorndale Line, the Authority’s highest ridership Regional Rail Line. FRA grant funding will support upgrades to train control signal systems on the line between Paoli and Overbrook. This new, modernized equipment will enable greater operational flexibility and higher operating speeds and will help reduce delays for Amtrak and SEPTA passengers. 

“The signal system upgrades that will be made possible through this grant will significantly improve service reliability for SEPTA customers traveling on the Paoli-Thorndale Line,” said SEPTA General Manager Leslie S. Richards. “SEPTA is pleased to partner with PennDOT and Amtrak on initiatives to improve operational flexibility and reduce congestion on the Harrisburg Line. We are grateful for the efforts of our Congressional delegation to make these funds available, and to the FRA for its continued support of these critical improvements.”

Until the recent COVID-19 pandemic disrupted transportation nationwide, the Harrisburg Line had experienced sustained growth over the last 15 years. As partners in commuter and intercity passenger rail in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, PennDOT, Amtrak and SEPTA are fully committed to improving the long-term operation and maintenance of the signal systems, as well as other critical infrastructure projects along the railroad.

“This project is a critical step forward in a renewed effort between Amtrak, PennDOT, and SEPTA to optimize the Harrisburg Line for all of our passengers and will generate benefits worth four times the project cost,” said Ray Lang, Vice President of State-Supported Services for Amtrak. “Not only will this project improve reliability and throughput on the Harrisburg line, an additional benefit will include operational flexibility on the line during outages, which is key to many PennDOT and SEPTA sponsored projects in the coming years.”

“PennDOT continues to combine innovation, local resources, and strong partnerships with entities like Amtrak and SEPTA to help create the most sustainable, inclusive transportation assets possible,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “As organizations we are no longer just responsible for the system, but the quality of life we help create through projects like the Harrisburg line expansion.”

“Our transportation is always worth the investment – it connects people, generates more accessible jobs, and helps us have greener communities,” said U. S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-4). “I am excited to see the impact of these improvements for SEPTA and Amtrak.”

“This grant is critical to improving our public transportation infrastructure system, including train and rail,” said U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6). “During this pandemic, grants like this are even more crucial. I’m grateful for the enhancements our community will get to experience and look forward to supporting these and future efforts to make our transportation more effective and accessible to all Pennsylvanians.”

SEPTA, Amtrak, and PennDOT are cooperatively committing resources to implement strategically phased projects that will help foster recovery by enhancing rail service and bringing critical infrastructure to a state of good repair. Amtrak and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have previously partnered in the restoration of the electrification of the Harrisburg Line, transforming it into the second fastest rail line in North America after the Northeast Corridor. With previous funding through the FRA Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant program, PennDOT, Amtrak and SEPTA are also restoring a third track and upgrading signals on a 10-mile segment of the Harrisburg Line west of Paoli. The stakeholders have also recently partnered on several Harrisburg Line station improvement projects, including Paoli and Ardmore.

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