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Amtrak, Scranton to New York City?

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority (PNRRA) has signed a Joint Planning Agreement with Amtrak for proposed operation of new intercity service between Scranton, Pa., and New York Penn Station, using the long-dormant, State of New Jersey- and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania-owned Lackawanna Cut-Off. The service is one of the new routes in Amtrak’s 2035 system plan.

Amtrak will provide professional services including infrastructure assessment and ridership and revenue forecasting estimates of equipment needs and other analysis, which is estimated take approximately one year to complete and cost $400,000.

The 136-mile, three daily round trip routing would be Penn Station New York on the Northeast Corridor, connecting with New Jersey Transit’s Morristown Line at SWIFT Interlocking (Kearny Connection), then on to Scranton via a rebuilt Lackawanna Cut-Off through a connection with the Morristown Line at Port Morris Junction. 

Amtrak illustration

NJT Morristown Line service currently terminates at Hackettstown, but the agency has plans to develop branch line service from Port Morris to Andover Township, has installed some track on that line segment and is close to restoring the 1,024-foot Roseville Tunnel, which is roughly six miles west of Port Morris Junction.

The Morristown Line and the NEC are both electrified, albeit with differing catenary voltages. NJT MidTOWN Direct trains on the Morristown Line that serve PSNY are currently powered by multi-voltage ALP-46 electrics or dual-power (electric-diesel) ALP-45DPs. Amtrak services would require new dual-power locomotives on order from Siemens, as the Lackawanna Cut-Off from Scranton to the Morristown Line would not be electrified.

“This agreement solidifies the growing beneficial relationship between Amtrak and PNRRA and Amtrak’s proposed new intercity passenger rail corridor between Scranton, the Pocono Region, Northern New Jersey and New York City,” said PNRRA President Larry Malski. “This transportation option will provide economic development benefits to the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and allow an environmentally favorable transportation alternative to the congestion and delays that are projected to dramatically increase on our local, state and interstate highway infrastructure in the Northeast.”

“This proposed new Amtrak corridor will provide the residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Northern New Jersey and New York City a brand new transportation option and direct connection between the region and the entire Amtrak system,” added PNRRA Chairman Bob Hay.

Passenger trains last operated on the Lackawanna Cut-Off (built by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western in 1911) in 1970. Conrail freight service ended in 1978 and the tracks were pulled up in 1984.

According to a local media outlet, TAPinto Roxbury, North Jersey Rail Commuter Association President Chuck Walsh said restoring the Lackawanna Cutoff between the Roseville Tunnel and Pennsylvania would cost close to $300 million, with a big chunk of the money needed for repairing the line’s Hainesburg Viaduct and Delaware River Viaduct. Funding would come from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure improvement bill now being considered by Congress.

Further Reading on the Lackawanna Cut-Off Restoration Project

DL&W Lackawanna Limited on the Cut-Off, Pequest Fill, circa 1912.
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