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The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority (JRA) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to begin the process of seeking new prospective operators for its five short-line properties in Central Pennsylvania.The five railroad properties total about 200 miles of track in Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, and Union counties that are owned by the JRA and currently operated by North Shore Railroad Co. through agreements that expire on June 30, 2017. North Shore was selected by the JRA through a similar RFP process in 1984 and has continued to serve as the lines' operator through a series of contract renewals and continuations.The authority has invited a proposal from North Shore as well as from other experienced railroad operators that would assume operations on July 1, 2017. Although the current agreement does not expire for three years, the JRA and North Shore "are anxious to expeditiously resolve matters relating to a new professional services agreement," authority officials said in a press release."Our customers, the shippers on the five rail lines, have expressed complete satisfaction with the current operator. We are using this RFP process to encourage competitive private service that provides affordable freight rates for the manufacturers and shippers served by our railroads,” said JRA Chairman Jerry Walls.The RFP process will occur in stages. Initially, potential operators are asked to respond to a request for qualifications (RFQ) by Aug. 1. A mandatory pre-proposal meeting will be held by the JRA on June 5 at 10 a.m. at the Union County Government Center in Lewisburg, Pa.A thorough review of the RFQ responses will enable the authority to narrow the list of potential choices for an operator, and each of the semi-finalists will be interviewed, as well as their customers, JRA officials said. Discussions also will be held with representatives from Norfolk Southern Railway, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and other entities the selected operator could potentially interact with. "As we move forward with this process, our basic objective is to secure a level of service, maintenance, and marketing equal to that which we have received over the last 30 years," said JRA Executive Director Jeff Stover. "[Our] overriding concerns will continue to be safety and the needs of our customers."
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