Posts Tagged ‘North Shore Railroad’

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says 2015 SEDA-COG Contract Vote Constituted Legal Majority

October 6, 2020

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has sided with Carload Express in its contention that the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority should have awarded it a seven-year contract to operate the agency’s seven rail lines.

In a 6-2 vote the court rejected the contention of the Susquehanna Economic Development Assocation-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority that its vote in 2015 to award the contract did not constitute a majority of its governing board.

When the vote was taken, all 16 of the board members were present but six of them abstained in the 7-2 vote to award the contract to Carload Express, which is based in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

SEDA-COG later declined to award the contract, saying that under its bylaws a majority vote would constitute nine affirmative votes.

The court wrote in its opinion that if the agency wanted to require nine votes to award a contract it could have changed its bylaws to state that.

Justice Christine Donohue wrote that in Pennsylvania the law is that a majority constitutes a majority of those voting provided that a quorum is present.

Carload Express had earlier won a lower court ruling directing SEDA-COG to award it the contract to operate the seven rail lines that total 200 miles of track in central and eastern Pennsylvania serving 70 shippers.

The lines are currently operated by Susquehanna Union and Carload of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, which does business as North Shore Railroad.

North Shore’s contract with SEDA-COG expired in 2017 but the authority has allowed it to remain the operator of the lines.

In a lawsuit that is still pending in Clinton County, North Shore argued the vote never should never have been taken.

North Shore cited the “inappropriate actions of a rogue board member” as tainting the vote.

Until all of the litigation surrounding the 2015 vote is resolved, North Shore will continue to operate the SEDA-COG rail lines.

Appeals Court Reverses Course in SEDA-COG Dispute

July 3, 2018

The fight over a Pennsylvania short-line railroad took another turn last week when a Pennsylvania state appeals court reversed its earlier order and instructed a lower court in Clinton County to reconsider a short line service contract approved by the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority Board of Directors.

The legal action stemmed from the Susquehanna Union Railroad, also known as the North Shore Railroad, being turned down by SEDA-COG for a seven-year operating contract. Instead, the contract went to Carload Express of Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

Susquehanna Union has operated the lines in question since they were purchased by the state from Conrail in 1984.

In awarding the operating contract to Carload Express, SEDA-COG said it used a scoring system that showed Carload Express scored one point higher than Susquehanna Union.

The line is made up of five branches and 200 miles of track in central Pennsylvania.

The 2015 decision has displeased both railroads with each filing lawsuits.

One issue is that state law requires nine of the board’s 16 members to approve the contract, but six members abstained during the voting.

In sending the case back the appeals court said the lower court “failed to resolve all issues” and additional pertinent information has since been disclosed.

The latter includes a news report saying that in a sworn deposition, a SEDA-COG board member said he had given no points to the North Shore when submitting his tally in 2015, but had planned to give the railroad 60 out of a possible 100 points.

That would have been enough to put Susquehanna Union into a tie with Carload Express.

Judge Rules in Favor of Carload Express in SEDA-COG Contract Awarding Dispute

May 9, 2018

The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority has been ordered by a Pennsylvania court to award a freight railroad operating contract to Carload Express.

The contract covers operating rights over five short-line railroads in Centre, Lycoming, Northumberland, Mifflin, Montour, Columbia and Clinton counties owned by SEDA-COG and serving 70 customers over 200 miles of track.

Carload Express would replace Susquehanna Union Railroad, the parent company of North Shore Railroad, as operator of the lines.

At issue is SEDA-COG’s interpretation of how many board members are needed to award a contract.

SEDA-COG argued that at least nine of its 16 voting board members are needed to determine to award an operating contract.

In 2014, SEDA-COG sought proposals to operate the short lines and received three bids. It later chose two finalists, Carload Express and Susquehanna Union.

At a July 2015 board meeting, six board members withdrew from the contract vote because of potential conflicts of interest.

Seven of the 10 voting members favored awarding the contract to Carload Express.

But SEDA-COG said because that fell short of a majority of the board – meaning nine or more board members – the vote failed to meet its requirement to award an operating contract to Carload Express of Allegheny County.

A Clinton County Court of Common Pleas later ruled in SEDA-COG’s favor in a lawsuit filed by Carload Express.

The latest ruling overturns that decision and was made by a Commonwealth Court judge.

In response to the Commonwealth Court’s decision, Susquehanna Union said it is considering its legal options.

Susquehanna had pending a lawsuit of its own in Clinton Country that alleges that the request for proposals to operate the SEDA-COG lines was tainted by a board member who committed ethical violations.

Susquehanna contents that the outcome of its lawsuit could negate the award to Carload by the Commonwealth Court.

In the meantime, SEDA-COG has held off awarding the contract to Carload Express, instead voting unanimously to hold a special meeting to discuss the litigation.

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson found in the state court opinion that a 7-3 vote from the 16-member SEDA-COG was a valid endorsement of a contract with Carload Express.

Simpson relied on the state Municipal Authorities Act, which states that a contract can be awarded based on a vote of the majority of an authority’s members who are present.

North Shore is based in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, and has 80 employees. It interchanges freight with Norfolk Southern.

Pa. Short Line to Offer Rare Mileage Trips

March 11, 2017

A Pennsylvania short line railroad will be offering rare mileage excursions on June 10 over former Reading Company track.

The Union County Industrial Railroad is offering the excursions as part of a bicentennial celebration in Milton, Pennsylvania.

The trips will depart from the ConAgra Brands facility in Milton and travel toward New Columbia,  crossing the Susquehanna River en route. It will be the first public passenger service over the route since 1964.

Tickets are $10 and available only at the Milton Borough Hall at 2 Filbert Street. Sales begin April 10 and end on April 28 being sold on a first come, first served basis.

The Union County line is an affiliate of the North Shore Railroad.

Judge Rules R&N Suit Can Proceed

August 19, 2016

A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern against the SEDA-COG Joint Rail authority may proceed.

R&N contends in the suit that the Authority did not follow state competitive bidding laws when it awarded a contract to North Shore Railroad.

PennsylvaniaAmong other allegations, the R&N said in its suit that the Authority has since 1983 awarded contracts to North Shore without taking competitive bids.

“Reading & Northern Railroad is extremely pleased that Judge [Charles] Saylor ruled that we can proceed with our lawsuit against the Joint Rail Authority. We intend to vigorously pursue this legal action in order to prove that corruption and cronyism is at the heart of how JRA has operated for more than 20 years. Reading & Northern is delighted that we now have the opportunity to pull back the curtain on this rogue operation,” said RBMN President Wayne Michel in a statement.

The lawsuit is being heard in Northumberland County. In his ruling, Judge Saylor turned aside argument by the Authority and Carload Express that the suit be dismissed.

The judge thus cleared the way for R&N to seek to show that the Authority did not follow proper competitive bid procedures and went out of its way to keep the R&N out of the bidding process because of the railroad’s “well-known support of privatization.”