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Swatara Township: Norfolk Southern won't let us review expansion plans

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Norfolk Southern Corp. won't submit plans to the township development review process for its $60 million expansion of the Rutherford intermodal facility in Dauphin County, which is to start this year, said Paul Cornell, administrator for Swatara Township.

Cornell said the railroad told the township it doesn’t have to submit to local review processes for expansion of its facilities because railroads fall expressly under the purview of Congress.

Congress exempted the railroads from local zoning ordinances when it created the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in the U.S. Department of Transportation. The board replaced the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1995 and is responsible for federal oversight of railroads, their facilities and financial activities.

The exemptions to state and local laws have been limited and clarified during the past couple decades in STB and court rulings, according to the STB.

The railroad has submitted stormwater plans to the township for review, Cornell said. Some dirt moving has taken place at the site near the Wal-Mart store on Route 322, but major construction hasn’t begun yet, he said.

Virginia-based Norfolk Southern announced the Rutherford expansion in 2011 and expected it to start this year. More than $15 million for the project is from federal funding.

Railroad officials were traveling this morning and weren’t immediately available to update the Rutherford expansion status.

In a related matter, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, will help Norfolk Southern dedicate its intermodal facility in Franklin County on Tuesday.

Norfolk Southern’s new $97 million intermodal terminal near Greencastle has created 126 jobs in the area, according to the company. The facility was built using $45 million from the state.

Shuster is scheduled to dedicate the facility at 2 p.m. The Greencastle facility is part of the railroad’s improvements to the “Crescent Corridor,” an arc of railways from New Jersey to Louisiana, including facilities in Central Pennsylvania.

Norfolk Southern trades its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol NSC.


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