Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Norfolk Southern (NS) are finalising an agreement to improve freight and passenger rail service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania, US.

The agreement will be backed by the $1.2tn federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was signed in November 2021 by US President Joe Biden.

In addition to the collaboration for the operating agreement, PennDOT and NS will finalise improvements to increase passenger-rail service on the NS-owned corridor west of Harrisburg.

The agreement will cover the project scope, freight and passenger operations’ use of the corridor, compensation for the use of assets owned by NS, and liability protection.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said: “Freight rail is a core piece of Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, and this is the rare opportunity to improve an important rail corridor while laying the groundwork for more passenger rail service in the future.”

Prior to starting the engineering and construction phases of the project, NS will undertake an operational feasibility study to identify enhancements.

These upgrades will aim to remove eight chokepoints while facilitating freight and passenger train operations without conflict.

PennDOT multimodal transportation deputy secretary Jennie Louwerse said: “The federal infrastructure law plugged a significant hole in our ability to meet these critical freight and passenger needs.”

Once the agreement is finalised, work is expected to start on several improvements, with the completion of the project scheduled for within the next five years.

The agreement will also receive funding from PennDOT, which will redirect state Multimodal Transportation Fund dollars toward the rail improvements.

Federal Railroad Administration administrator Amit Bose said: “This public-private partnership is the kind of collaboration necessary to maximise Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments to improve and expand passenger rail service while also strengthening supply chain fluidity.”