Gov. Tom Corbett knows how to keep the trains running.
Last Thursday, the Corbett administration struck a deal with Amtrak, the federal rail agency, to maintain passenger service between Pittsburgh and the state capital. There will be once-a-day service in each direction that will continue to include stops in Greensburg, Johnstown, Altoona, Huntingdon and Lewiston. The train, which is known as the Pennsylvanian, will also continue service from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and New York.
The route east to Harrisburg was in jeopardy because the state's share for maintaining the Pennsylvanian was scheduled to rise to $6.5 million a year in October. Instead, the state's annual share of the cost will be $3.8 million. Funding for the service is contained in Gov. Corbett's transportation spending plan, which he has urged the Legislature to approve.
Passengers who depend on and use the train regularly didn't want to lose service to Harrisburg, and clearly their voices were heard. At $40 for a one-way ticket between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, riding Amtrak is inexpensive compared to the cost of maintaining a car, burning gasoline and paying turnpike fees.
Because of Pennsylvania's budget woes, Amtrak agreed to work with the Corbett administration on a funding plan that made sense for the state while maintaining a vital service. Pennsylvania and the federal government should engage in more of this kind of creative problem solving.
While it isn't clear whether the agreement will cause an increase in fares, the service has been saved. It was important to keep Pittsburgh linked by rail to places in the state's center and east. The service also has enormous symbolic and practical value that was recognized by Gov. Corbett. Good for him and great for us.