Advancing PA Rail evolved from Plan the Keystone, an initiative launched in 2009 to share improvements for rail passengers at the 12 Keystone Corridor train stations from Harrisburg to Philadelphia. The goals are to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, by constructing upgrades to outdated stations along the rail corridor and ensuring that improvements complement local revitalization efforts.
When the initiative was originally launched, planning outreach was conducted in each of the 12 Keystone East station communities, with the public and local leaders closely involved. Today, many of those envisioned improvements have been completed, and numerous projects continue to advance from planning through design to construction, as described on this site. The Advancing PA Rail website is expanded to include the entire rail corridor, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania’s integrated rail system will provide safe, convenient, reliable, cost-effective connections for people and goods. As a viable alternative to other modes, it will support economic competitiveness, smart growth, environmental sustainability, and resiliency, thereby strengthening Pennsylvania’s communities.
Amtrak's Keystone Service, supported by PennDOT, runs between New York City and Harrisburg by way of Philadelphia. The service provides frequent daily service, affordable fares, competitive trip times, comfortable seating, and more.
The Pennsylvanian Service runs between New York City and Pittsburgh by way of Philadelphia.
Regional rail systems link nearby towns and cities and are a popular way for people to commute between the suburbs and metropolitan areas. There are three providers of regional rail services in Pennsylvania: the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT), and the Port Authority Transit Corp. (PATCO).Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) provides public transportation services in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, along with selected rail service to New Jersey and Delaware. In addition to regional rail, SEPTA services include bus, subway, and trolley transportation.Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT)
Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) provides public transportation services to a vast area of western Pennsylvania, including the City of Pittsburgh and all of Allegheny County. Transportation services include light rail, bus, and mini-bus. PRT also sponsors ACCESS, the nation's largest paratransit program of its kind for senior citizens and persons with disabilities.Port Authority Transit Corp. (PATCO)
The Port Authority Transit Corp. (PATCO) is owned and operated by the Delaware River Port Authority. It is a heavy rail subway/elevated line operating between Center City Philadelphia and Camden, N.J., and continuing to Lindenwold, N.J. It is one of only a few rapid transit lines in the world that operates a 24-hour service.
In addition to Amtrak's intercity services, SEPTA and New Jersey Transit operate commuter services over the Amtrak-owned and operated Northeast Corridor and, in the case of SEPTA, over a portion of Amtrak's Harrisburg Line from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. Amtrak provides electric traction power for SEPTA's operations over the Northeast Corridor and other lines owned by SEPTA.
Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian Service on the Keystone West corridor between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg (and on to Philadelphia and New York City) currently offers one train in each direction per day. The 250-mile rail journey takes roughly two hours longer than making the trip by car due due to mountainous terrain and numerous at-grade crossings and limited opportunities for passenger trains to pass slower freight trains.
PennDOT initially examined options for increasing passenger service on Keystone West as part of a 2011 study undertaken in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Norfolk Southern (NS), owner of the Keystone West rail line.
Over the last several years, passengers and stakeholders continued to express the need for expanded Pennsylvanian Service on Keystone West to provide more travel opportunities between Pittsburgh and destinations to the east, including New York City. PennDOT coordinated with NS to initiate an operational feasibility study, completed by NS in fall of 2021, that evaluated the impact of modified and expanded Amtrak rail service on NS freight tracks between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The study identified infrastructure improvements necessary to maintain freight traffic, while allowing for expanded passenger rail service.
In 2022, PennDOT and NS entered into an agreement to provide capital improvements on the NS rail corridor to accommodate an additional daily Pennsylvanian train. These improvements are currently in design. The additional Pennsylvanian train is anticipated to start operating in 2026.