Posts Tagged ‘SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority’

Pa. High Court Spurns R&N Appeal

February 14, 2021

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will not hear the appeal of the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern over the selection process used to choose an operator of five short line rail routes in central Pennsylvania.

R&N had commenced litigation to overturn a decision of the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority that favored an operator other than R&N to operate the lines.

A lower court had ruled that SEDA-COG was within its rights to eliminate R&N from proposals to operate the five lines.

In its legal briefs, R&N contended that although its bid had been ranked the lowest of those received by SEDA-COG, the process used to rank the bidder had been designed to eliminate R&N from consideration.

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.

RBN&N To Appeal Court Loss

July 11, 2020

A Pennsylvania short line railroad has vowed to appeal a court decision throwing out its lawsuit against the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority.

The Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern sued the authority over its handling of proposals from would-be operators for five rail lines that the authority owns in central Pennsylvania.

RBM&N submitted a proposal but was ranked last by the authority among the bidders.

The railroad then filed suit, contending that the evaluation process was designed to eliminate it from consideration.

Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor rejected the RBM&N’s argument in 2018 and a three-judge Commonwealth Court upheld that decision earlier this week.

In his suit, RBM&N challenged the rail authority’s structure, organization and expansions.

“Reading and Northern continues to believe that it is improper and illegal for government-owned rail authorities to compete against privately-owned companies in handling rail freight business,” said RBM&N owner Andy Muller Jr., in a statement.

An attorney for the railroad said issues it want to bring up on appeal include the refusal of the trial court to allow the presentation of certain evidence that RBM&N said would favor it.

The attorney said the appeals court failed to address that issue in its ruling.

RBM&N will seek a review by the full Commonwealth Court bench of of the three-judge panel’s ruling.

Branch of Pa. Short Line Sees Traffic Again

July 7, 2019

A section of the Nittany & Bald Eagle Railway that has been dormant for years is again hosting freight shipments.

Jeff Stover, executive director of SEDA COG Joint Rail Authority, said Centre Concrete near State College, Pennsylvania, has begun having some of its inventory shipped in by rail.

The facility is located on a line that extends from Bellefonte to the east side of State College.

The last customer on the line had been Corning Glass, but that plant closed in June 2003 and with rail service ended aside from rail car storage.

The N&BE is part of North Shore Railroad and a spokesperson for that company said it has seen an uptick in freight shipping.

The freight cars that the N&BE had been storing on the Bellefonte branch were taken to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

R&N Vows to Appeal Loss in Court

October 30, 2018

Pennsylvania-based Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern will appeal a summary judgment issued by a court to the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority  regarding the solicitation of an operating agreement for the authority’s short lines.

The dispute arose after the R&N challenged the first phase of a request for proposals that the agency issued in 2014 seeking qualified operators for its rail lines.

The Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas awarded summary judgment in favor of the agency after R&N sued it and other proposers in the RFP process.

The decision dismissed all open claims in the case.

In a news release, R&N contends that the court dismissed its case without giving any credence to the evidence and arguments based on information taken from more than 20 depositions.

R&N also contends that the agency turned over the RFP process and decision-making to a subgroup with a bias toward the current rail carrier, North Shore Railroad.

“We are disappointed but not surprised by the court’s decision, which ignores all of our arguments and evidence. The court has consistently ruled in favor of the local rail authority and it has been clear since the beginning of the case that we would need to seek relief at the appellate level,” said R&N President Wayne Michel.

In a statement, R&N charged that the agency engaged in illegal competition with private industry and to showcase to the appellate court what the trial judge chose to ignore: the overwhelming evidence of bias and corruption that infected the entire process.

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.

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.”

Dormant Spur Now Hosts Trans-Load Facility

January 11, 2016

The Lycoming Valley Railroad has established a new trans-loading facility in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to serve Updegraff Trucking. The facility is located at the railroad’s Newberry Yard.

Products generally come in by rail and leave via truck. The trans-load facility was established along a rail spur that otherwise would have been dormant.

The spur was originally built by Frac Tech to serve shipments linked to development of the Marcellus gas industry. But that traffic has slowed and the spur has sat unused.

The Lycoming Valley is a subsdiary of the SEDA-COG Joint Authority. Other short line railroads operated by the Authority include the Juniata Valley Railroad, Lycoming Valley Railroad, Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad, North Shore Railroad, Shamokin Valley Railroad and White Deer & Reading Railroad.

 

Pa. Short Line Extends Track for Limestone Mine

November 28, 2015

The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority and the Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad will build a track to serve a limestone mine.

The authority said in a news release that limestone from the mine will help the Homer City Generating Station become one of the cleanest coal-burning plants in the nation. Lime is used in scrubbers that reduce the emissions of power plants.

Graymont Limited mines high-grade limestone from the Valentine formation that will be used in the scrubbers at the Homer City power plant.

The new track extends from the end of the Pleasant Gap Industrial Track and will ensure sufficient railroad track capacity for additional lime shipments.

Each lime train must be in blocks of 45 with siding space for both a loaded and unloaded car set. The Graymont mine lacked adequate track space for the Homer City business.

A new yard was built to tie into new tracks that Graymont built on its property.

The lime trains will move from Nittany & Bald Eagle to Norfolk Southern and then to the Buffalo & Pittsburgh for final delivery to the power plant.