$80 Million from Stimulus for Norfolk Southern Freight Rail in PA

With only 25% of the $787 billion dollar federal stimulus package spent thus far, the remaining $593 billion has many states coming to the table for a piece of the pie. When it comes to the Keystone state, PA is leading a 5-state coalition to secure over $300 million dollars in remaining funds for railway projects.

While the end goal of safer and more efficient railways to transport goods is indeed sensible, the corporate welfare accompanying these taxpayer-funded projects is the subject of much scrutiny. Norfolk Southern Corp. stands to be the sole beneficiary of over $81 million in federal and state funding to upgrade their current rail yards in Harrisburg and Greencastle, as well as the construction of a new yard in Franklin County.

Norfolk Southern has made lofty claims of saving Pennsylvania over $800 million in accident avoidance and congestion costs, yet I have several questions regarding these projections.

If moving more freight to the railways is going to drastically reduce congestion, wouldn’t the end result of reducing congestion bring more of that same freight back on the road?

Moreover, how does Norfolk Southern plan on getting the freight to and from the rail cars without causing local congestion around railway hubs?

Finally, with no accountability in place once funding is secured, how trustworthy are these projections in the first place? The debate of road vs.rail should be decided by the free market; with each company funding its own maintenance and congestion, not simply whichever company has the best PR and lobbying campaign.