Casey, Cartwright Announce Key Step in Restoring Scranton to New York Rail Service
Designation is critical step towards federal funding for NEPA rail service
Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-8) announced that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has included Northeastern Pennsylvania in its Corridor Identification and Development (Corridor ID) Program with the goal of reestablishing direct passenger rail service between Scranton, PA and New York, NY. The Corridor ID Program was established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to assist with the development of intercity passenger rail corridors.
“For generations, passenger rail service helped Northeastern Pennsylvanians connect with loved ones, get to school and work, and access economic opportunity and recreation. In turn, residents of other states helped to stimulate our economy and visited our region to see the best of what we have to offer,” said Senator Casey. “I have fought to restore Scranton rail service for my entire career as a United States Senator, including voting to pass the infrastructure law, because bringing passenger rail service back to my hometown and to our region will be a game-changing force for our economy, our families, and our communities.”
“I am thrilled to make this long-awaited announcement. This is a significant milestone and represents years of dedicated efforts to restore passenger rail service, which will contribute to our region’s economic growth and vitality,” said Congressman Matt Cartwright, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee who worked with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer to ensure Amtrak was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which allocated billions for rail. Cartwright has also had ongoing conversations with U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in his efforts to restore passenger rail to Northeast Pennsylvania. “This proposed rail line will create jobs, improve quality of life, and offer convenient travel options for commuters, college students and tourists, alike. It will also connect those of us living in Northeast Pennsylvania to a wider selection of health care services, sporting events, cultural activities and vacation spots. I appreciate the efforts of Sen. Bob Casey, Governor Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority officials Larry Malski, Dominic Keating and Bob Hay, and all who have worked alongside me to bring this project to this point. I look forward to getting this plan across the finish line with the support of our federal, state and local officials.”
Rail service previously ran on the Lackawanna Cut-Off directly between Scranton and New York, but was discontinued in 1970. Without consistent use and upkeep, the 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 subsequently met with Secretary LaHood to discuss increased financial support 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.
In 2022, Casey and Cartwright led a coalition of regional partners from Pennsylvania and New Jersey in urging the Federal Railroad Administration to reestablish Scranton Rail through a once-in-a-generation investment in Northeastern Pennsylvania’s rail infrastructure.
Since being elected to Congress in 2012, Cartwright has made restoring passenger rail service to Northeast Pennsylvania the top priority of his work in public life. Beginning shortly after being sworn in, Rep. Cartwright teamed up with Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority (PNRRA) officials Larry Malski, Dominic Keating and Bob Hay for dozens of meetings and hundreds of calls, all with a view toward reviving the moribund project.
In January 2017, Cartwright and then State Senator John Blake (and currently District Director for Rep. Cartwright) organized and led a symposium at Pocono Manor at which the bipartisan coalition of scores of local elected officials, New Jersey rail officials and community business leaders began to come together. At that event, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards and Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan provided key advice on how to position the project for success, including evaluating the repair work needed on the massive bridges over the Delaware River and the Paulinskill Creek.
Beginning in 2017, Cartwright helped PNRRA secure funding from Lackawanna and Monroe counties, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Appalachian Regional Commission to fund a rail study on costs, feasibility, ridership and environmental impact. These studies were performed by recognized engineering firm Greenman Peterson and, later, Amtrak itself.
In February 2021, Cartwright and Blake held a Zoom meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and secured his agreement to increase the New Rail part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law by $2 billion, to increase this project’s chances of success.
In May that year, Cartwright founded the Lackawanna Cutoff Rail Restoration Caucus in Congress, which included inaugural Members Susan Wild (PA-7), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5).
As a member of House Leadership, in the summer of 2021, Cartwright heavily lobbied top leadership to treat the Infrastructure Law as a stand-alone bill and pass it. Rep. Gottheimer also aided in that effort. It succeeded, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed the House on July 1, 2021.
In October 2021, Cartwright selected the Scranton Trolley Museum as the site of President Biden’s infrastructure speech, and invited Amtrak President Stephen Gardner and CEO Bill Flynn, who attended. The next month, November 15, 2021, Cartwright was joined by both men, plus Amtrak Board Chair Anthony Coscio, at the signing of the Infrastructure bill into law.
In July 2022, Cartwright secured an agreement from Governor Tom Wolf to provide $3.7 million matching funds for the purchase of 43,000 railroad ties to upgrade tracks on the Pennsylvania side of the line. PNRRA will be applying for a matching grant from FRA in February.
Later in 2022, Cartwright introduced Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro to the rail project and met with him several times during the campaign. After his inauguration, Governor Shapiro agreed to a January 14, 2023, discussion of the project. On that day, after a full discussion of the project, including an explanation of its widespread bipartisan support and economic benefits, Governor Shapiro enthusiastically agreed to support it. He agreed to provide $125 million in local-match funds, to have PennDOT author the application to the Federal Railroad Administration, and to seek New Jersey Transit’s co-sponsorship of the application. Under the leadership of Governor Shapiro, and Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Mike Carroll, that application was submitted, and NJT did cosponsor it.
This past August, Cartwright and New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer led a delegation that included Amtrak's vice president of network development along with N.J. Transit and PennDOT officials on a tour of proposed station locations and other key landmarks along the Scranton-to-New York City passenger rail route.
The Corridor Identification and Development (Corridor ID) Program is a comprehensive intercity passenger rail planning and development program established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to help guide intercity passenger rail development throughout the country and create a pipeline of intercity passenger rail projects ready for implementation.
FAQs and Additional Info
What Could a New Rail Service Look Like?
· Multiple roundtrips per day with travel time of approximately two hours and 50 minutes between Scranton and New York City.
· Trains will travel at a maximum speed of up to 110 mph on the restored Lackawanna Cut Off track and are expected to transport as many as 470,000 riders per year.
· Stations would be located in Scranton, Mt. Pocono and East Stroudsburg. In New Jersey, service would eventually connect to the major north-south hub of Newark and then continue on to New York City
What Comes Next?
- Stage One: Scoping/Project Planning ($500K provided by the federal government)
Now that NEPA’s proposed corridor application has been selected for Corridor ID and Development, the federal government will provide necessary funding to begin developing the scope, schedule and budget.
- Stage Two: Service Development Plan (federal share of funding 90%)
This stage requires a detailed project schedule, ridership and revenue forecasts, cost estimate, station areas and route options, and labor and fleet planning.
- Stage Three: Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Review (federal share 80%)
Capital projects that complete Stage Three will be prioritized for federal construction funding under FRA’s Federal-State Partnership Program.
Why NEPA’s Passenger Rail Project is Ready to Move Forward
- The proposed corridor will connect three of the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the United States: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Area (1st), Newark, NJ-PA (44th), and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, PA (100th).
- This project has long been part of Pennsylvania’s and New Jersey’s state rail plans.
- Significant recent studies were completed so that the project can advance quickly, including a study conducted by Amtrak that details proposed station stops, schedule options, anticipated ridership, associated financial impacts, and preliminary equipment/facility requirements.
- Amtrak has also completed a complete economic impact analysis that concluded restoration of rail service will generate $84 million in new economic activity annually.
- Early environmental studies have also found No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the corridor.
- Portions of the defined route already exist as passenger rail, and this corridor is wholly government-owned and without any private freight rail entanglements or restrictions to delay immediate development.
- The Project has support from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Amtrak and all the local communities it touches.
- PennDOT and co-applicants have already made significant investments in the Corridor, and planning and development efforts are ongoing. PennDOT also has a long history of delivering large-scale intercity rail capital projects.