A $13 million project to raise the ceiling of the old J&L railroad tunnel at SouthSide Works is on track for completion in the spring, officials said today.
CSX Corp. officials were joined at the project site by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at an event to mark the halfway point in the first phase of an $850 million program to increase freight capacity in Pennsylvania and neighboring states.
Michael Ward, the railroad's chairman and CEO, said work to raise the tunnel ceiling to 21 feet to accommodate double-stack trains should be completed in December or January and the torn-up area between Tunnel Boulevard and South Water Street will be landscaped in the spring. A ravine that crossed what is known as Tunnel Park will be leveled off.
At present, sections of the old ceiling have been uncovered and are visible from neighboring streets. The concrete slabs will be lifted off to allow raising of the side walls, then replaced and covered over.
CSX is paying about $575 million of the overall cost of the National Gateway project, with federal and state funding making up the balance. Pennsylvania's contribution is $35 million.
"This is a prime example of how to responsibly leverage public and private dollars to improve our nation's infrastructure," said Mr. Doyle, D-Forest Hills.
Mr. Schoch said a principal benefit of the projects will be a reduction in truck traffic on highways.
CSX expects to announce within three to six months where it will build a $50 million intermodal terminal, Mr. Ward said. It will be in Allegheny County and is expected to open in late 2014 or early 2015.