What happens in the age of cutoff rail service?

5 minutes

SCRANTON, Pa. June 10 - At first glance, the path looks like just another trail in the woods in northern New Jersey. But train buffs know better; the Scranton - Pittsburgh cutoff is key to a proposed restoration of rail service between New York City and Scranton - Pennsylvania state President Joe Biden's hometown.

Biden's massive infrastructure proposal entails $80 billion in new projects on high speed rail infrastructure including up to 39 Amtrak passenger routes and connections to up to 166 cities by 2035.

One proposed route would be from Pennsylvania to Scranton, the northeastern New York city where Biden was born and where he lived until he was 10.

What happens in the age of cut off? Between 1909 and 1911 by the Delaware, Lackawanna Western Railroad it provided a fast way for trains to travel from Scranton to Buffalo, New York and on to New York. For a few years, travelers could continue northward to Chicago.

When it was built, 'It was considered to be an engineering triumph, said Chuck Walsh, who has been walking the trail for more than 35 years.

Walsh, President of the North Jersey Rail Commuter organization, has spent years trying to restore passenger rail service to the abandoned line.

Miles of large earthen mounds, called fills and monumental concrete structures like the Paulinskill Viaduct in Columbia, New Jersey attest to the large investment and effort it took to build it.

However, since the United States increasingly turned to cars in the late 1950s and 1960s, rail service declined in the USA. Many railroad lines were abandoned and rail lines went out of business. The same fate befell the cutoff.

The passenger rail service along the line ended in 1970, and freight traffic lasted a few years longer. By 1979, the entire 28 -- 1 -- 2 - mile length of the cutoff had been removed from service, and the rails were soon restored

The campaign to restore passenger rail has made some progress. In 2001, the state of New Jersey acquired the cut off from private developers. New Jersey Transit Jersey Transit began work on the eastern end of the cutoff in ten years later, laying out sections of track over seven miles. However, recently, however, progress has stalled.

Long an advocate of Amtrak and passenger rail, the Democratic president in March announced a big expansion plan for Amtrak as part of his infrastructure proposal.

In Scranton, the announcement got a warm welcome.

We knew what we lost, said Larry Malski, who took the last passenger train in 1970 from New York to Scranton. Malski is president of the Scranton Amtrak station in Pennsylvania. It runs the Pennsylvania section of the route that the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority would run. The authority also runs lines used in the area by freight providers.

Scranton is built on coal, railroads, steel, said Malski. And almost disappeared the railroads, unfortunately. We saved what we could, thank God, and we saved a lot of what was here, because now it is vibrant and our freight business is booming. But we need to take back the passenger train.

The prospects of bringing Amtrak service to Scranton and other U.S. corridor cities now depend on negotiations between the Biden administration and Republican congressional representatives over how much money to spend on infrastructure and how to pay for it.

On Tuesday, Shelley Capito broken off the talks with a key Republican, instead reaching out to a bipartisan group, after the one-on-one negotiations with Biden of West Virginia were described as becoming a brick wall.

On Wednesday, the Biden lawmakers said that the bipartisan group was discussing whether to revive infrastructure without raising taxes, as the Boodoon proposal in New Jersey has.

Paul Lewis, a vice president at the nonprofit ENO Center for Transportation in Washington, said that bringing rail services to Scranton and elsewhere will depend on local support as well as the negotiations in Washington.

According to Bob Durkin in Scranton, the business community supports the project, according to the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce President of Scranton.

'We think that if that happens, that would be a tremendous benefit to community, its businesses and people, said Durkin. And it'll work.

A lot of work has already been done to prepare for the service, including the beginning of New Jersey Transit Jersey Transit lines and the construction of a new terminal in Scranton to provide bus and other transport connections on the site where the new passenger rail terminal would be built.

In the United States, having an emphasis on bus and plane transportation, growth in rail has been a difficult sell over the past few decades. But Malski said real investment in passenger rail in the United States, as it was been in Europe, Japan and more recently China, is long overdue.

Malski said, "We need to regain our prominence as a rail passenger nation. This year the's population is over-represented in UK!

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