A $6.8 million grant has been awarded to upgrade short-line rail service in Blair, Centre, Lycoming and Northumberland counties supporting the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Friday.
"Building an innovative, transportation network with world-class railways will help local businesses compete now and in the future," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a written statement.
The project, which includes 200 miles of track improvements and bridge rehabilitation, is expected to create more than 300 construction jobs in Pennsylvania.
The upgrades will expand the capacity, efficiency and safety of Pennsylvania's short line rail network in the four counties.
"These infrastructure improvements will pay dividends through job creation and increased economic development," Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said.
"The construction of new tracks and rehabilitation of old ones will position the railroads to accommodate increases in rail freight traffic associated with natural gas exploration and production in the Marcellus Shale formation."
The grant, a part of the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, will be matched with $4.6 million from the Susquehanna Economic Development Association - Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority.