During eight days earlier this month, Norfolk Southern completed $16.2 million in track, bridge, and signal improvements in southwestern Pennsylvania's Monongahela Valley. The rail infrastructure improvements are critical to the region's coal-mining industry and to meeting the electricity needs of households and businesses across the Northeast and Midwest.
Some 30 trains daily operate on Norfolk Southern's Mon Valley rail network, which serves five coal mines that shipped 41.4 million tons of coal in 2010.
"The coal industry in that part of the country is vital to jobs and to U.S. energy security, and it's essential that we maintain and improve our track infrastructure to provide solid and dependable service," said Tim Drake, NS' vice president engineering.
For many years in early July, the railroad has undertaken an intensive effort to overhaul the Mon Valley rail lines during the coal miners' annual summer break, July 3-10. This year more than 400 NS maintenance of way and structures department employees from across the railroad's 22-state system laid 29 miles of new rail, resurfaced nearly 69 miles of track, and replaced three bridge decks, among other improvements. Four work trains and 95 pieces of large machinery were used.
Under normal operating conditions, the work would have taken approximately three months to complete, with significant disruptions in service.
"There's an extraordinary amount of planning, organization, and teamwork that goes into making this a success," Drake said. "Our employees worked under extreme conditions and hot weather and did it safely."
"It's amazing the amount of work that gets done in such a short amount of time," said Butch Phillips, an NS track laborer from Waynesburg, Pa., who participated. "We take a lot of pride in it."
"It's a big makeover, like a facelift," said Drew Laird, an NS machine operator. "We want to put the track in the condition required to move the trains faster and safer."
Drake said the Mon Valley project is an example of how NS is investing in its rail infrastructure to support jobs and the nation's economic recovery.
Norfolk Southern Corporation is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal and industrial products.