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Final train crosses Chambersburg street

November 02, 2000

Final train crosses Chambersburg street



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The railroad gates at the King Street intersection sounded their warning bell and descended for the final time shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday as the last train to use the tracks in downtown Chambersburg chugged past.

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About 75 residents and state and local elected officials cheered as the CSX freight train passed. A banner attached to the side of its engine proclaimed: "Chambersburg: 1881-2000."

"It is an exciting and historic day," said U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, before removing a spike and rail during Wednesday morning's ceremony.

After a decade of lobbying for money and negotiating with the railroad, the trains have been rerouted outside of downtown Chambersburg. Work will begin in the spring to remove the tracks.

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"This project dates back to the 1960s goal to remove all at-grade crossings in Chambersburg," said David Sciamanna, president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

Sciamanna said the goal seemed impossible to reach until Shuster got involved in the early 1990s.

Shuster in 1991 authored a provision in the Intermodal Surface Transportation equity Act that provided $14.4 million from the federal government to remove the tracks.

It took nine years of negotiations with CSX, Conrail and Norfolk Southern before the rerouting could become a reality.

"We are here today to declare victory, for the last train just passed through Chambersburg," Sciamanna said.

As he spoke, the train's whistle could be heard in the distance heading out of the borough.

Trains have run through Chambersburg at nine at-grade intersections over a 1.6-mile stretch since 1881. In recent years the trains have become problematic as Chambersburg grew and the tracks divided the town.

The crossings created a safety concern and sometimes fire and ambulance squads on their way to emergencies lost precious minutes waiting for freight trains to pass.

"I am pleased to have played a role in assisting the citizens of Chambersburg so that they can safely live without trains blocking their streets," Shuster said. "This project will reduce the threat of accidents and congestion problems."

Shuster reminisced about working on the railroad in his younger days. "I have pulled more than my share of spikes. I expect this is the last spike I will pull so I intend to keep it," he said.

The rail crossings will be patched this fall to ensure a smooth ride until state crews can begin removing the rails in the spring, said Elizabeth Sarge Voras, deputy secretary of aviation and rail freight for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The crossings eventually will be leveled and 1.1 miles of the former railroad bed will be turned into a walking trail.

In May, Shuster announced he had secured $631,000 in federal funds for the Rail-to-Trail project. State and local funds also will be used for the trail.

"Some people said this day would never come. They would speak of it wistfully," said Councilman William McLaughlin. "The community of Chambersburg will profit from this."

"This will bring the whole borough together. I'm sure in 1881 the railroad brought a lot to Chambersburg, but its time has passed," Councilman Thomas Newcomer said.

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