Study: Passenger trains could return to Scranton by 2028

New trains would transport nearly a half-million people between New York and Scranton

By: - March 23, 2023 11:24 am
View of an Amtrak train (Capital-Star photo by Patrick Abdalla).

View of an Amtrak train (Capital-Star photo by Patrick Abdalla).

Trains traveling between Scranton to New York City would transport an estimated 470,000 people a year beginning in 2028, according to a two-year study released Wednesday by Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority.

The region’s railroad advocates have been trying to bring back passenger rail since the 1970s, and they say the study brings that possibility one step closer to fruition. 

According to the study, three round trips would shuttle passengers every day, and  stations would be in Scranton, Mt. Pocono, East Stroudsburg, Blairstown, Dover, Morristown, Montclair, Newark and New York City.

The study claims the region would see a boost of $84 million from increased tourism and economic activity a year.

“That’s a great return on our investment,” Tyler Kusma, executive director of the Scranton Rail Restoration Coalition, told the Capital-Star.

The study also highlighted the next steps in the process.

Up first: Making sure the region’s application to the federal program that is expanding rail corridors is completed by the March 27 deadline.  

Steam trains in Scranton, Pa. (Capital-Star photo by Patrick Abdalla)

The advocates, which include local officials and the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority will have to finalize the plans for services and secure government funding agreements. 

The last few years have seen funding come in different forms, including the purchase of 43,000 railroad ties through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

The entire effort will include officials from the federal government, several Pennsylvania counties, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of transportation, among others.

The study said up to 80% of funding could come from the federal government.

The last step is completing other related projects and purchasing trains.

According to the study, the cost of improving the already owned authority lines will be between $100 million and $175 million while the trains could run $70 million to $90 million. That would be up to 45% of the project’s entire cost.

The trains would travel about 110 miles per hour. The commute would run 2 hours and 50 minutes.

Rail had a prominent role in Scranton for a century before the last passenger rails stopped running in the 1970s after the number of passengers dwindled. Shortly afterward, the tracks were torn out of the railbeds, dooming the region from any quick return. 

Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti and U.S. Rep Matt Cartwright, D-8th District, have been vocal advocates for rail’s return in recent years. 

The election of President Joe Biden, a prominent proponent of trains, frequent Amtrak rider, and Scranton native, provided another boost. The bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law in 2022 included $22 billion in new Amtrak funding. 

The last time he visited Scranton, Biden spoke in the shadows of the Steamtown National historic site, which celebrates the region’s railroad history.

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Patrick Abdalla
Patrick Abdalla

Correspondent Patrick Abdalla covers northeastern Pennsylvania for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Follow him on Twitter @PaddyAbs.