State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne/Carbon/Monroe, joined several state legislators in announcing Reading & Northern Railroad has secured a $10 million state grant to construct a new railroad bridge over the Lehigh River near Nesquehoning.

"The project will put construction workers back on the job, utilize local manufacturing products, and position Carbon and Luzerne counties to be key players in attracting new businesses along the central artery between the Marcellus Shale play and the Port of Philadelphia," Yudichak said.

The 18-month bridge construction project is expected to create over 140 jobs and numerous indirect jobs.

The new bridge will provide Reading & Northern with an efficient and safe north/south route connecting the Philadelphia region to New England and eastern Canada.

Reading & Northern will offer the use of this route to both Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific railroads.

The project cost is in excess of $14 million, with Reading & Northeast investing the balance, creating an opportunity to enhance rail service to existing clients of the railroad, while expanding the new business opportunities along the freight corridor.

Under the terms of the state grant, $5 million in grant funding will be released in this fiscal year and the next. The grant was awarded through the state Rail Transportation Assistance Program, which is a capital budget grant program funded with bonds.

Key legislative leaders, who worked in a bipartisan manner to secure this critical infrastructure funding include: Sens. Joseph Scarnati, David Argall, Pat Brown and John Rafferty; and state Reps. Mike Carroll, Doyle Heffley, Jerry Knowles and Mike Tobash.

According to Andrew Muller Jr., owner and CEO of the railroad, this bridge will enable Reading & Northern to provide improved service to dozens of its existing customers.

Muller said it will be the fastest and most economical route into the Marcellus Shale territory in northeast Pennsylvania, and it will assist in the development of the Port of Philadelphia, allowing unit trains of double-stack intermodal containers to flow in and out of the Port of Philadelphia to points in the northeastern United States and Canada.

Other benefits include keeping heavy trucks off Pennsylvania roads, improving highway safety, congestion mitigation and air quality, while reducing highway wear and tear and fuel usage.

The railroad operates a 320-mile regional rail system in nine counties in eastern Pennsylvania, and employs over 180 employees at the railroad and related businesses.

In 2013 over 85,000 carloads moved over Reading & Northern railroad lines.