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A mediator has been appointed to represent the residents in Pittsburgh's north side as talks continue with Norfolk Southern (NS). The Class I railroad wants to raise bridges at Pennsylvania and West North avenues, lower the tracks at Columbus Avenue Bridge and build a new Merchant Street Bridge. The track is lower in spots along the route through the city, but NS says it cannot go any deeper in some areas. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) gave NS a $20 million grant for the work on the bridges. NS will be contributing $8.2 million.
Rail traffic also would increase in the area, from about 25 trains a day to as many as 50. Residents are concerned about the noise pollution that accommodates more trains and more freight cars. A group tried to sway the Public Utility Commission's consideration of the proposed bridges, but the PUC did not side with the group's concerns.
The mediator representing the citizens of Pittsburgh's north side says he wants to work with the railroad to come up with a solution both sides will agree on. PennDOT released a report that failed to recommend the best way to handle double-stacked rail freight, so the agency currently is meeting with community groups to take in all concerns. The study did say if the railroad cannot use the grant to fix the bridge, the responsibility would fall on the city.
The project is already in motion in the Pittsburgh suburbs, but no work has begun in the city since the grant was awarded in April 2017.
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