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April 21, 2010

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Intercity Passenger, Freight Rail Plan finalized

HARRISBURG - Offering a vision for what Pennsylvania’s rail system could look like in 2035, the Pennsylvania Intercity Passenger and Freight Rail Plan is now available for public review.

The plan provides guidance on future rail needs and presents ways to enhance passenger and freight rail development to support economic growth and environmental sustainability, according to PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E.

“This plan outlines what we want Pennsylvania’s rail system to look like in 25 years and identifies our challenges in achieving those goals,” Biehler said. “We now have a complete inventory of our passenger and freight rail infrastructure and we know the needs that each mode will face in the future. Having a sound plan is a first step toward a smart planning approach, but there is no getting around the fact that transportation funds are shrinking, and especially now that revenue from Act 44 will be dramatically reduced.”

The plan will help to guide federal and state rail investments within the state and creates a base document for additional analyses of goods movement in other modes. It also fulfills the requirements of the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008, State Rail Plans and the Pennsylvania Rail Freight Preservation and Improvement Act Comprehensive Rail Freight Study.

The plan does include reference to the proposed “Lackawanna Cutoff” restoration, a rail link connecting Scranton, the Poconos and the New York metro area, but does not include specific new information.

Scranton to Hoboken/New York City

"NJ Transit, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), and the Pennsylvania Northeast Region Railroad Authority are collaborating to rebuild portions of the Lackawanna Cutoff and restore passenger rail service between Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Hoboken/New York City. The project envisions an 88-mile extension from NJ Transit’s Montclair-Boonton and Morris & Essex line in Roxbury, New Jersey to Scranton. The estimated cost of the project is $551 million and an environmental analysis was conducted in 2001. In 2008, the FTA declared a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the first Minimum Operable Segment (MOS) from the Port Morris Yard in Roxbury, New Jersey, to Andover, New Jersey. Upon the issuance of the FONSI, the FTA directed NJ Transit to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) for the remainder of the line from Andover, New Jersey, to Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Supplemental EA was completed in June 2009.

It is anticipated that NJ Transit will operate the service with several trains each day. With proposed Pennsylvania stations in Scranton, Tobyhanna, Pocono Mountain, Analomink, East Stroudsburg, and Delaware Water Gap, the commuter service would offer an alternative to traffic congestion on I-80 and other northern New Jersey highway routes. Many of these communities are among the fastest growing in Pennsylvania."

To review the plan, visit www.dot.state.pa.us and click on “Aviation and Rail Freight,” click “PA Rail Plan 2035.”

PennDOT developed the plan with extensive community input, including a public-comment period and substantial partnership with dozens of public and private sector stakeholders, including carriers, shippers, developers, labor, private entities and public agencies.

“I greatly appreciate the input we received from the public, all of which helped to make the plan stronger,” Biehler said.

 


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