increasing rail Clearance heights in Pittsburgh
Norfolk Southern’s 22-state rail network is an important part of the nation’s freight transportation system. The ability to move freight safely, efficiently, and reliably by rail is essential to businesses and households and is a cornerstone of the U.S. economy.
Nowhere is this more critical than in Pennsylvania. Norfolk Southern’s operations in the Commonwealth are a core part of the company’s rail system and the movement of freight between the Midwest and the East Coast.
To enhance the efficiency of freight rail movement through Pennsylvania, Norfolk Southern has proposed the Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance projects. As part of a public-private partnership with Pennsylvania and PennDOT, Norfolk Southern has developed a series of projects designed to increase the height clearance for trains moving through Pittsburgh and southwest Pennsylvania.
INCREASING RAIL SAFETY IN PITTSBURGH
The Merchant Street Bridge Project is a stand-alone, on alignment bridge replacement project. The Merchant Street Bridge was constructed circa 1905 and consists of two skewed steel spans supported by stone masonry abutments and one intermediate steel bent. The ballast-deck superstructure is comprised of a concrete-filled riveted steel trough system that varies in length and width and carries four active railroad tracks. There is extensive steel corrosion within the cross girders and columns comprising the intermediate bent as well as throughout the riveted trough system. These conditions will be considered safety concerns within a few years and may pose a safety hazard to the railroad and the traveling public and a potential liability to other transportation entities if not addressed.
On this webpage, people can learn more about these projects. Included are documents that explain the purpose and need for the projects; a list of frequently asked questions; and information about the public involvement processes. To help keep the public informed, Norfolk Southern will post updates on this page as discussion of the projects moves forward.
Purpose and Need
The proposed Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance projects will enable Norfolk Southern to move freight and people more efficiently through Pittsburgh and southwest Pennsylvania and connect industries and businesses to consumer markets on the East Coast and in the Midwest. The projects support jobs, economic growth, and national goals relating to greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency. They will improve both rail and roadway networks in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Projects Purpose and Need Statement
The proposed Merchant Street Bridge Project will maintain safe freight and passenger rail operations through Pittsburgh and southwest Pennsylvania and connect industries and businesses to consumer markets on the East Coast and in the Midwest. The Merchant Street Bridge has reached the end of its useful life and engineering inspections have identified a need to address structural deficiencies that have the potential to create risks to current rail traffic and forecasted rail traffic increases.
Merchant Street Bridge Project Purpose and Need Statement
CULTURAL RESOURCES REPORTS FOR THE PITTSBURGH CLEARANCE PROJECTS AND MERCHANT STREET BRIDGE PROJECT
These reports have been prepared in accordance with the Pennsylvania State History Code.
An open process: Meeting with the community
On June 26, 2018, Norfolk Southern held a combined open house for the Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Projects and Mechant Street Bridge Project at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to introduce the public to the projects. An estimated 300 to 400 people attended, including North Side residents and local government leaders. NS received more than 90 written comments at the meeting, with additional comments received later by email or postal mail. The projects remain in the preliminary phase and NS continues to seek comment on potential community impacts.
For information about the open house, including public notices, project boards displayed, and public comments received, view the Open House Summary document.
MERCHANT STREET BRIDGE PROJECT
Norfolk Southern had planned to host a traditional public meeting for the Merchant Street Bridge Project, but that was not possible due to COVID-19 safety concerns. In lieu of an in-person meeting, NSR provided an online presentation and comment form to gather input on the project. Comments were received from July 27, 2020 to August 26, 2020.
Learn more about the public involvement process for Merchant Street Bridge Project.
MERCHANT STREET BRIDGE PROJECT
The Environmental Document for the Merchant Street Bridge Project was approved by PennDOT on October 27, 2021.
Merchant Street Bridge Project Environmental Document
FAQs: We’re glad you asked
People who attended the public open house and Consulting Party #1 had plenty of questions about the projects. They ranged from concerns about air quality and noise to why Pennsylvania tax dollars would be used to help fund the projects.
Read Norfolk Southern’s answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Projects.
During the public involvement and consulting party processes, there were plenty of questions about the Merchant Street Bridge Project. The questions ranged from concerns about whether the Allegheny Commons will be affected to what the bridge and roadway design will be.
Read Norfolk Southern’s answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Merchant Street Bridge Project.
NS in Pennsylvania: An essential part of our rail network
Norfolk Southern operates more than 2,400 route miles of track in Pennsylvania, while more than 4,600 employees live and work in the Commonwealth. NS operates four intermodal terminals across Pennsylvania and serves three additional private intermodal terminals, including one in Pittsburgh. NS’ Harrisburg Intermodal Facility anchors the east end of the Pittsburgh Line, serving as a major transportation hub for shippers moving freight between Chicago and the mid-Atlantic region.
View a Fact Sheet to learn more about NS’ presence in Pennsylvania, including the railroad’s positive economic impact and the categories of freight NS moves in and out of the Commonwealth.
Rail intermodal: efficient, cost-effective, environmentally friendly
The Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance projects would create an efficient, reliable route for Norfolk Southern to operate double-stack intermodal trains and auto multilevel rail cars through the city’s North Side. A growing number of businesses are shipping goods on intermodal trains, and double-stack trains are the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to transport them.
Learn more about the benefits of rail intermodal at the Association of American Railroads’ webpage, Freight Rail & Intermodal.