Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Keystone West Rail Study Workplan
The Keystone West Rail Study's project workplan in phase 1 will assess the existing conditions of the Pittsburgh - Harrisburg line, the affected environment and potential effect. With such an assessment, operational alternatives will be considered such as modifications to the existing infrastructure to better accommodate passenger rail traffic. The study will review the feasibility of building enhancements to the infrastructure within the existing right of way (ROW) of the railroad line without impeding efficient freight operations. The study will also examine significant additions to the infrastructure outside of the existing right of way (ROW).
Essentially this means relaying a third dedicated passenger track the length of the Keystone Corridor West. The Keystone Corridor West is owned by NS and now consists of 2 bidirectional tracks.
The Pennsylvania Railroad's line was four tracks. Two tracks were dedicated to passenger traffic and two tracks were dedicated to freight traffic. What the Pennsylvania Railroad created was a separate passenger and freight railroad that shared the same ROW. East of Harrisburg the freight railroad did not share the ROW with the passenger railroad. Freight operations were on a different ROW.
The ROW today has 2 tracks. Technology now allows for the 2 tracks to have bidirectional signal capability. This was not true for the PRR.
The PRR mainline tracks were numbered 1 to 4 from south to north. 1 and 2 were eastbound. Tracks 3 and 4 were westbound. Generally, tracks 2 and 3 were passenger tracks.
Using Google Earth, it is possible to follow the Pittsburgh -Harrisburg line together with a track chart. Using a clear film template, a rough guesstimate as to where infrastructure enhancement might be made can be visualized. A 2 degree curve can withstand an 85 mph speed. A 1 degree curve can withstand a 113 mph speed. (See FRA Track Safety Standards, Appendix A at 49 CFR 213.57.)
Here is an aerial photograph of downtown Pittsburgh. X marks Milepost 353.2 (40.445089N79.991806W), site of the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station. It is from this point that the line will be examined with thoughts as to how the physical infrastructure might be enhanced to sustain faster speeds.