Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority (PNRAA) on March 22 released the findings of a two-year analysis examining the potential for rail services between Scranton, Pa., and New York.
According to Amtrak, the study included operations planning to develop a sample schedule, ridership estimates, economic impacts and infrastructure assessment for the Pennsylvania segment. The infrastructure estimates costs to upgrade track to accommodate passenger trains along 60 route miles owned by PNRAA between Scranton and the Delaware Water Gap.
The route’s outlined vision plan includes the following:
- Three roundtrips per day with an automobile competitive travel time of approximately two hours and 50 minutes between New York and Scranton.
- Trains traveling at a maximum speed of up to 110 mph (on the Lackawanna Cutoff segment) and transporting an estimated 470,000 riders per year.
- Stations located in Scranton, Mt. Pocono, East Stroudsburg, Blairstown, Dover, Morristown, Montclair, Newark and New York City.
According to Amtrak, service, which would utilize upgraded existing tracks in Pennsylvania between Scranton and the Delaware Water Gap; 20 miles of restored tracks on the “Lackawanna Cutoff” between the Delaware Water Gap and Andover, N.J.; and existing tracks owned and operated by NJ Transit and Amtrak between Andover, N.J., and New York City, could potentially begin as early as 2028, pending completion of design work and construction by stakeholders, including the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), NJ Transit and PNRAA, with support and funding from the federal government.
Additionally, Amtrak says the project would generate significant annual economic benefits including:
- $84M in economic activity (example: increased tourism and local economic activity).
- $20M in benefits to passengers (example: being able to be productive on the train).
- $7M in society benefits (example: diverting travel from highways can reduce traffic crashes and pollution)
The next steps in the corridor design to implementation process include:
- Completing the Federal Corridor ID application by March 27, 2023, for funding to: Finalize the service development plan and secure government agreements; confirm compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); and complete preliminary engineering activities.
- Completing final design.
- Securing funding (the Federal government could provide up to 80% of construction funding; the non-Federal share is 20%).
- Completing subsequent construction projects and acquiring trains.
This newly released report, Amtrak says, estimates that track improvements on the PNRRA owned segment will cost between $100 million and $175 million, while acquisition of trains is estimated to cost approximately $70 million to $90 million; these two items are anticipated to be about 30-45% of the total project cost.
According to Amtrak, more design work will estimate the total cost of re-establishing Scranton–New York City passenger rail service, including fully restoring the Lackawanna Cutoff, building stations and creating an equipment service facility. Acceptance of the project into the Corridor ID program would accelerate the process needed to restore this important transportation connection.
“Passenger rail service in and out of Scranton was discontinued in 1970, only one year before Amtrak was created,” said Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner. “Restoring and expanding this corridor with daily multi-frequency service would dramatically boost mobility and economic development for residents of Scranton and Northeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and the broader Northeast region.”
“This study reinforces what we have advocated for decades that rail passenger service to this region is a huge economic positive,” said PNRRA President Larry Malski. “The study’s release is extremely timely with last year’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that for the first time makes available federal funding for developing Scranton service, especially restoring the Lackawanna Cutoff and upgrading PNRRA trackage.”