Learn more about a major step forward in efforts to restore passenger rail service from New York City, through the Poconos, to Scranton!
Local real estate agent Tiffanie Bailey-Romey joined a crowd of 500 at Kalahari Resorts and Conventions to rally for rail. At the public information session and celebration hosted by the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau and key partners, Tiffanie learned about major developments in restoring passenger rail service between Scranton, the Poconos, and New York City.
“I have been here since 1997, waiting for the train. Moving up here everyone said, ‘the train is coming, the train is coming,’ and then it was a dead stop. However, today I saw the progression, the movement, the money,” said Tiffanie Bailey-Romey, Bairo Real Estate, president.
This project is one of 69 across the country recently accepted into the Federal Railroad Administration's Corridor ID Program, which granted each recipient an initial $500,000 for development and research.
Larry Malski, who has worked behind-the-scenes for decades on the Scranton to Port Authority project, says the route is already further along the tracks than many others.
“We feel we've got the steps put together. We've been spending money on engineering, environmental, and all these other things that go into it. We believe we've got a head start on most of those other 69 successful applicants because we've done our homework,” said Larry Malski, Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority, president.
Passenger rail service hasn't connected Scranton, the Poconos, and New York City since 1970. Larry was 18 at the time and rode the very last train with a friend. He recalls it was a somber day for everyone on board.
“They knew it was the end of an era, and a lot of people just figured it would never come back. But perseverance is the most important quality as far as I’m concerned. That's what it took to bring it back, and we're going to bring it back,” he added.
According to an Amtrak study, the train could make three round trips every day at just under three hours each way, accommodating half a million riders per year. Trains would have Wi-Fi and full dining and beverage options. Imagine a relaxing ride on your way to visiting family or an extension of your office on the way to work, as Congressman Matt Cartwright recently explained during a press conference outside his office.
“This proposed route also connects us to a wider selection of health care services, sporting events, cultural activities, and vacation spots. It's about jobs,” said Congressman Matt Cartwright, PA 8th Congressional District.
There would be several stops in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Mount Pocono and East Stroudsburg. The mayor of East Stroudsburg looks forward to seeing small businesses flourish.
“We are excited, we are ready. I can’t wait to walk to our great downtown, jump on the train, and head into the city or Northern Jersey. And the reverse, getting those Jersey and New York dollars spending in our area,” said Mayor Victor Brozusky.
“This will be a boom for tourism in Northeastern Pennsylvania and I’m just so happy to see us get this kind of investment, which is significant,” added Chris Barrett, Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, president/CEO.
Advocates of the long-planned restoration say this is the first time the project has garnered this level of bi-partisan local, state and federal support, including from President Biden, a Scranton native himself.
“He has a real focus on this because he understands our region. He understands the potential of it and how a train from here to New York can benefit this region,” said Senator Bob Casey, (D) Pennsylvania.
Back at the rally, Tiffanie says she commuted between the Poconos and New York city for years and knows many others who still do. The idea of a new transportation option makes her Pocono Proud.
“The wear and tear on your car, gas going up, the carbon footprint. I always tell people even when they're moving here, that's the worst part. If you can get through that, you're good. But now, they don't even have to get through that,” she added.
Most of the rail lines between Scranton and New York City were preserved and remain in place, but there's still much work to be done before getting the train back on track by the projected 2028. Stay up to date as the project progresses on PoconoMountains.com/Rail.