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[Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:48 p.m. Tuesday to include comments from North Shore Railroad Co. & Affiliates, a unit of Susquehanna Union Railroad Co.]
A Pennsylvania court last week determined that the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority (JRA) must award a freight railroad operating contract to Carload Express Inc.The Commonwealth Court's ruling addressed a dispute over the JRA's interpretation of its legal ability to award a contract for the operation of five short-line routes in Centre, Lycoming, Northumberland, Mifflin, Montour, Columbia and Clinton counties. The court's decision means that Carload Express is authorized to succeed Susquehanna Union Railroad Co. in operation of the short lines, Carload Express officials said in a press release."Carload Express applauds the decision of the Commonwealth Court, which lifts the cloud of confusion and uncertainty that had been hindering the JRA's RFP [request for proposals] process and has delayed a new operating agreement for more than two years," said Chairman Russell Peterson. "Since that time, Carload Express nearly doubled its locomotive fleet to a total of 44 and started operations on its new Delmarva Central Railroad subsidiary in Delaware and Maryland, which serves customers on 162 miles of track."The Commonwealth Court overturned an earlier decision by a Clinton County Court, which had sided with the JRA's interpretation of its legal ability to require at least nine voting board members to determine who should obtain the operating contract as part of an RFP process.
At a meeting in July 2015, six of the JRA's board members withdrew from the contract vote because of potential conflicts. Seven of the 10 voting members voted in favor of awarding the contract to Carload Express; three members were opposed. The JRA, which determined that the final vote count failed to meet its requirements to award the operating agreement, then filed a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas in Clinton County.
A spokesperson for North Shore Railroad Co. & Affiliates, which is part of Susquehanna Union, said today the company is considering its legal options. Last week's court decision did not affect a counterclaim made by the company in Clinton County, which "could serve to negate the awarding of the contract to Carload," said Loni Briner, North Shore's public relations and media manager, in an email.
"We are eager to pursue our counterclaim and put an end to this litigation so that we can place our time and efforts into expanding our company, serving our customer's needs and driving economic growth in our region," Briner said.