Eastern railway Norfolk Southern said it completed $20.5 million of track, bridge and signal improvements along a major coal line through the Monongahela Valley during a seven-day blitz timed to coincide with coal miners' annual weeklong summer break.
The investment in Southwestern Pennsylvania is part of $2.4 billion in network maintenance and upgrades scheduled this year. The Monongahela Line extends 85 miles south from Pittsburgh to five coal mines in Washington and Greene countries. Last year, Norfolk Southern transported almost 37 million tons of coal over the line, most of it for utilities. About 30 trains per day use the line.
During the week-long project, 500 NS construction employees installed more than 44,600 crossties, laid 10 miles of new rail, resurfaced 67 miles of track, replaced 1,091 bridge ties and installed 18 culverts to ensure smooth train operations. Crews also finished maintenance work on 28 road crossings, four bridges, and one tunnel.
The project was supported by 56 work trains and 32 pieces of track equipment. Under normal conditions it would take about three months to accomplish the work, with disruptions in service, the railroad said.
Coal is Norfolk Southern's largest commodity franchise and accounts for one-third of carloads in North America, excluding intermodal. During the second quarter, NS's coal revenue fell 15 percent to $755 million. NS, like all railroads in North America, is a victim of a fundamental shift in the energy sector towards cheap natural gas
, as well as a mild winter, and export competition from other countries. - Eric Kulisch