Direct rail service between Scranton and New York would generate $87 million of economic activity every year, according to Amtrak study
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-8) are leading a large coalition of regional partners from Pennsylvania and New Jersey in urging the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to reestablish direct passenger rail service between Scranton, PA and New York, NY. Senator Casey and Representative Cartwright sent letters to FRA Administrator Amit Bose, calling for a once-in-a-generation investment to bring a vital, long-overdue rail infrastructure project to fruition for the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Casey, Cartwright and their partners emphasized their commitment to seeing rail service from Scranton to New York fully restored to boost local economies in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Restoring service to my hometown has long been a priority of mine in the Senate, which is why I was proud to support President Biden’s infrastructure law that will invest over $65 billion in our Nation’s railways. Spent wisely, this historic funding can help rebuild and revitalize American rail infrastructure after decades of underinvestment while simultaneously expanding service into new corridors and bringing alternative transportation options to thousands of people nationwide. It is my strong hope that Scranton will be the terminus of one such corridor,” wrote Senator Casey. He continued, “With dedicated federal investment, strong local coordination and the hardworking spirit of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I believe Scranton-New York rail service can move from a legacy of the past to a reality for the future.”
“Amtrak’s analysis of the corridor places the estimated economic impact from passenger service from New York City to Scranton at $87 million per year, and the development in the Poconos in anticipation of tourism from northern New Jersey and New York City is accelerating, with a recent billion-dollar announcement coming from the Margaritaville Resorts group for an expansive complex in Pocono Township, Pennsylvania,” wrote Representative Cartwright.
“The PA Northeast Regional Railroad Authority (PNRRA) is working closely with Amtrak on a $400,000 study to determine how to bring this long overdue expansion to fruition. Along with Senator Casey and Representative Cartwright, we are taking steps to provide safe and efficient passenger rail service to the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania and revitalize our local economy,” said PNRRA President Larry Malski.
Rail service previously ran on the Lackawanna Cut-Off directly between Scranton and New York, but was discontinued in 1970. The 28 mile stretch of track fell into disrepair and requires significant investment to restore train service.
Senator Casey and Representative Cartwright have long advocated for restored rail service between Scranton and New York. In 2008, Senator Casey sent a letter with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), then-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and then-Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) in support of a passenger rail service between Scranton, PA and Binghamton, NY that would connect to existing service through to New York City. In the same year, Casey sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration requesting information on plans to begin the Lackawanna Cut-Off project.
In 2009, Casey led a letter to then-President Obama asking for continued support in the creation of this passenger rail. Senator Casey also wrote a letter in 2010 to then-Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation Ray LaHood emphasizing the need for more funding to restore the Lackawanna Cut-Off and met with Secretary LaHood to discuss increased funding for the project.
In 2015, Senator Casey sent letters to the Lackawanna County Regional Planning Commission and the Luzerne County Planning Commission, as well as the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in support of funding for the Lackawanna Cut-Off Restoration Project.
In 2021, Amtrak announced the largest investment in its passenger rail since its creation, made possible by funding from the infrastructure law, which Casey and Cartwright both supported. Senator Casey visited East Stroudsburg to tout the potential for train service after Amtrak released a proposal to expand rail across the country, including restoring New York-Scranton rail service.
Congressman Cartwright has made restoring rail service one of his district priorities since assuming office in 2013. He led the formation of the Lackawanna Cut-Off Rail Restoration Caucus, a group of federal lawmakers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey with a focus on rebuilding 28 miles of track between Port Morris, New Jersey and Slateford, Pennsylvania - a crucial part of bringing back rail service between New York City and Scranton. When it came to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, he worked with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer to ensure Amtrak was included in the federal funding package that passed in November 2021 and allocated billions for rail.
Most recently, he once again led a bi-state coalition to advance the return of passenger rail service between Scranton and New York City by assembling the “Lackawanna Cut-Off Interested Parties,” a bicameral, bipartisan group of 25-plus interstate legislators and business and industry leaders to co-sign and co-submit an expression of interest letter to the FRA passenger rail grant application process.
June 15, 2022
The Honorable Amit Bose
Federal Aviation Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE Washington, DC 20590
Dear Administrator Bose,
I write today to reiterate my strong support for reestablishing passenger rail service between New York, New York and Scranton, Pennsylvania through the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that would bring substantial economic investment to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
As we discussed in our recent call, there has been no passenger rail service between New York and Scranton for over fifty years. Restoring service to my hometown has long been a priority of mine in the Senate, which is why I was proud to support President Biden’s infrastructure law that will invest over $65 billion in our Nation’s railways. Spent wisely, this historic funding can help rebuild and revitalize American rail infrastructure after decades of underinvestment while simultaneously expanding service into new corridors and bringing alternative transportation options to thousands of people nationwide. It is my strong hope that Scranton will be the terminus of one such corridor.
As you noted in our call, bringing multiple new passenger rail corridors to life will be a serious undertaking, even with the financial resources from the infrastructure law already secured. These projects require significant political and public will, dedicated resources and sustained focus to reach completion. While the potential path ahead for Scranton-New York service is a substantial undertaking, I am confident that the tireless work of advocates and leaders in Northeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey will carry this project through to the finish line.
In addition to the strong regional support, the Scranton-New York route is nationally competitive. The recent “Amtrak 2021 Corridor Vision” report identified the route as having both comparatively few physical infrastructure needs and a high prospective ridership. Amtrak has also stated that building out New York-to-Scranton service is a relatively low-cost project, listing it among those with the “lowest infrastructure cost per new passenger for full build out.” With dedicated federal investment, strong local coordination and the hardworking spirit of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I believe Scranton-New York rail service can move from a legacy of the past to a reality for the future.
I know we share the belief that rail service can be a profound economic development opportunity for people in areas of the country that have been left behind for too long. This is especially true in Northeastern Pennsylvania. According to a study from Amtrak, rail service from New York to Scranton would generate $87 million of economic activity every year, on top of $2.9 billion in one-time capital investments during construction.
These economic opportunities would not be limited to residents of Scranton but would extend to people in towns along the route as well. The tourism industry driving much of the economic development in Northeastern Pennsylvania—especially in the Poconos—will only continue to grow and thrive with the addition of new visitors from New York and New Jersey arriving by train. The very idea of passenger rail service is already contributing to growth: Margaritaville Resorts group announced plans for major investments in the Poconos, including the donation of land for a future Amtrak station. Pennsylvanians from Tobyhanna to East Stroudsburg, as well as people across the river in New Jersey, stand to benefit significantly from rail service resuming in the region.
Successful restoration of passenger rail service from Scranton to New York can serve as example of how prudent, major federal investment in transportation infrastructure can improve the lives of people and communities across the Nation. Additionally, successful implementation will justify similar investments in the future, ensuring that President Biden’s infrastructure law is not a one- off event but rather the first of many investments to expand and improve American passenger rail.
I applaud the FRA’s ongoing work in rolling out the many rail programs in the infrastructure law, especially the Corridor Identification and Development program, which will help advise and guide applicants through the build out of new passenger rail routes. My staff and I look forward to working with the FRA, Amtrak and local leaders in Northeastern Pennsylvania to ensure that the New York-to-Scranton line is in the best position to compete for the funding provided by the infrastructure law.