LEWISBURG – The fight over a new operating contract for the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority is being taken to the court of public opinion. Carload Express of Pittsburgh sent a letter last week to media outlets across the Valley making their case to be the next operator for the JRA.
The letter, written by J. Alex Lang, Carload’s chief information officer, says they are ready to go to work for the JRA. Carload believes their proposal, which promises increased income for the authority and greater infrastructure investment is the best choice for the Valley. The 100 customers of the JRA may not agree.
State Senator Gene Yaw (R-23rd, Loyalsock Township), who represents two of the JRA’s eight counties, says customers aren’t looking for a new rail operator, “They’ve told me personally, many of them, that they’re very happy and overall my understanding is there’s a 98 percent satisfaction rate with the current operators.”
North Shore Railroad of Northumberland has been the JRA’s contracted operator for more than 30 years. In their letter, Carload says they were “overwhelmingly selected” to be the new JRA operator. When the scores were tallied last July, Carload edged out incumbent North Shore by one point.
In a letter to the JRA dated June 19, 2015, Carload states their intent to buy out shares of North Shore if selected as the new operator. Jeb Stotter, Vice President and COO of North Shore tells WKOK their management, “had absolutely no knowledge of Carload Express’ interest in purchasing shares of our company nor would we have any interest in selling to Carload Express or any other entity.”
While lawsuits and counterclaims abound related to the JRA’s new operating contract, Yaw says current customers must stay involved, “They’ve got to make their feelings really known. I think holding the rail authority’s feet to the fire, the administrators, is the key. This is too important to them, I think that they need to, repeatedly go to every meeting and make their voices known, that they’re not going to go away and they’re not going to go away easily.”
Since 2013, the JRA has invested more than $225,000 in the process of selecting an operator. The current contract with North Shore expires in June 2017 and with lawsuits pending in both Clinton and Northumberland Counties, it is, as yet, unclear who will provide rail service to customers on the JRA’s rail lines. You can read Carload’s entire letter below.