Private train with plans to stop in Tyrone rerouted due to massive landslide

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Yesterday, in conjunction with The American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners Inc. (AAPRCO), a convention train was scheduled to pass through Tyrone by way of the Nittany Bald Eagle Branch.
Unfortunately, a major landslide covered two of the three Norfolk Southern railway tracks in Kilbuck Township, along with Route 65. Due to this, the private railcars had to be rerouted and were unable to make the planned stop at the Tyrone Rail Station yesterday afternoon.
Currently, one of two tracks previously buried by the massive landslide has reopened for rail traffic, but a nearby highway is expected to remain impassable for at least two more weeks, officials said.
Crews have been working around the clock to remove the dirt, rocks and other debris from Route 65 and two of three Norfolk Southern railway tracks in Kilbuck Township.
About 70 trains use the tracks daily, but the company has been able to use only one track since Tuesday evening’s landslide at the construction site of a 207-acre shopping complex being built at the former Dixmont State Hospital property.
A second track was reopened Saturday afternoon, although it shuts down intermittently so excavators can remove nearby debris, Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband said.
“All the traffic that is supposed to be running through Pittsburgh is running through Pittsburgh,” Husband said Sunday. Norfolk Southern does not know when the third track will be cleared, he said.
The affected area “is in the middle of our main artery between the New York metropolitan area and Chicago,” Husband said.
State transportation officials estimated 500,000 to 600,000 cubic yards of debris piled up to 30 feet high on the four-lane roadway, also known as Ohio River Boulevard. An estimated 17,000 to 22,000 motorists a day use the road on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
The railway company said its employees and a contractor worked to remove debris from two covered tracks and that Norfolk Southern will try to recoup cleanup costs and other fees from the developer.
Husband said he did not know how much the landslide cost the company. Norfolk Southern had to detour trains to other lines or to tracks owned by other railroads, he said.
Kilbuck police Chief Randy Ellison said the developers agreed to pay for any costs related to the cleanup.
The developer and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials on Friday released a timetable that called for Route 65 to reopen by Oct. 7.
The hillside needs to be secured to prevent another landslide, PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi said.
This is the second landslide at the site this year.
State regulators suspended the shopping complex’s construction permit until the roadway is cleared.
Opponents of a planned Wal-Mart Supercenter on the site have argued the state should not have issued the project a highway occupancy permit. They said the project will increase traffic and accidents, lower property values and cause environmental problems.