The purpose of Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Project (PVCP) is to raise existing vehicular and pedestrian bridges to accommodate double-stacked trains along a 20-mile route from McKees Rocks to Braddock and thereby increase rail capacity between New York/New Jersey and Chicago.
The project will enable the railroad to profit from the current expansion of the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries by speeding the transfer of crude oil from the Baaken Formation in North Dakota, as well as other shale and tar sands from the West, to the East Coast refineries. These materials are referred to as ‘extreme oil’ because they contain extremely flammable propane, methane, butane, and ethane.
The oil won’t be transported in the double-stacks, of course. Rather, raising the bridge clearance will enable the railroad to increase the number of trains passing along this route daily, from roughly 34 trains per day to about 80. More trains means more air and noise pollution. Inherently unstable double-stacked cars will run alongside the volatile oil-by-rail cars, increasing risk of derailment.
Once the bridges are raised, Norfolk Southern expects to save about three hours of travel time per train. That time saving is worth a fortune to them in profits, but it will only diminish our quality of life, and we taxpayers are footing the bill.