PA: Next big deadline looming for Scranton to New York City train

PA: Next big deadline looming for Scranton to New York City train

December 26 – Before the construction money flows and the passenger train rolls between Scranton and New York City, paperwork will pile up and bureaucrats weigh in.

Keen advocates of passenger trains received written instructions to begin the paper trail on December 20.

The Federal Railroad Administration issued a notice seeking proposals for the Corridor Identification and Development Program. The rail agency created the program in May.

“FRA has received extensive interest from states, local leaders and the public in intercity passenger rail service in their regions and communities, and the ID Corridor program will allow the federal government to assist with the long-term planning and delivery of new rail projects. of passengers. nationwide,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said in a statement. “With President (Joe) Biden’s infrastructure investments, we have an opportunity to support new intercity passenger rail corridors and develop a strategy nationally to make rail transport more available and reliable, boosting economies, growing jobs and creating new connections to move people and goods with ease.”

The deadline for submitting proposals is March 20 at 5:00 p.m. The agency will target projects that “bring tangible public benefits, and special emphasis will be placed on projects that benefit rural and underserved communities,” an FRA statement said. “The proposed corridors should make regional travel more sustainable and reduce congestion, boost local economies and create jobs, among other benefits.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8, Moosic, a leading champion of the project said, “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for and we’re getting ready for it. It’s an exciting time. It’s like we’re in a stock horse race. high and it’s time to step into the starting gate. We’re ready to find out if the years of hard work and preparation will pay off.”

Local officials think this project fits well with the agency’s criteria, but attorney Larry Malski, president of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Regional Railroad Authority, which covers Lackawanna and Monroe counties, said the competition will be stiff.

“A lot of people will apply,” Malski said.

Those selected will likely receive guidance from a team of FRA staff and a leg up.

“If you are selected as a corridor in the Corridor ID program … you are given statutory priority to receive (up to) 80% funding, budget priority,” said John Blake, Cartwright’s district director. “It’s in the law. All we have to do is approve the corridor” and the project will move forward.

Blake said the FRA is expected to rule by April or May. The FRA team meetings will then begin.

“They’ll tell you what, where, how to apply, how to do it, what to look for, what your next steps are,” Malski said. “I mean, one of the big things that we’ve done for us — and we’ve had this very general discussion with them is — we’ve already done environmental work throughout this corridor.”

In 2006, New Jersey Transit, which is already retracking part of the route, produced an environmental assessment, an assessment that measures the environmental effects on the 133-mile route. That will need updating, but it’s better than starting over, Malski said.

“So those are the little technical points that are going to be on the table that hopefully we’ll get good answers to,” he said.

Amtrak, which has proposed possible train operation, is studying the Scranton-New York City corridor. That study should be ready in January, Malski said.

Blake said applying the ID Corridor should be relatively easy.

“No hard pitch, no binding funding commitments, just an explanation of the corridor and data that can be shared with the FRA so they can discern if the corridor in question is mature enough in planning and knowledge that they can to say ‘Yes, you’re going to be one of our new corridors.'” It’s just a very, very early step in the process,” Blake said.

Blake said Cartwright is lobbying the state Department of Transportation to sign on as a sponsor of the local Corridor ID application.

“We certainly can have it (up and running) within five years, we can have it within four and in the best circumstances, maybe three,” Blake said. “So they approve the corridor in May of ’23, we may be able to operate by May of ’26. But that’s aggressive.”

Over the years, one start date after another has passed.

New Jersey Transit has begun design to restore more track on a 7.3-mile stretch of the Lackawanna Cutoff in northern New Jersey. The rest of the 28-mile stretch still needs track, signals and other rail equipment, not to mention stations, engines to pull the train, passenger cars to pull, repairs to two major bridges and track improvements existing of Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf awarded $3.7 million in funding to the local rail authority in October to upgrade tracks from Scranton to the Poconos. Lawyers consider this the most serious sign of state support so far.

The project has been estimated to cost between $288.9 million and $551 million, but actual costs are likely to be higher. If the FRA commits, it could pay up to 80% of the construction costs with New Jersey and Pennsylvania presumably coming up with the rest.

Contact the writer: bkrawcze[email protected]; 570-348-9147; @BorysBlogTT on Twitter.


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