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Monday, May 27, 2024

Blairstown Rail Service Gets Boost From Congressmen

Amtrak proposes returning passenger service to Scranton. New Jersey Transit will restore service to Andover within two years. Courtesy of Amtrak, 8/2023.

A delegation including two congressmen and Amtrak officials visited Blairstown along with other sites being examined for a restoration of passenger trains.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, whose North Jersey district includes portions of the railroad line known as the Lackawanna Cutoff, and Matt Cartwright, who represents the section of the line that would reach Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 7 visited the Andover station, which is slated to return New Jersey Transit passenger trains to Sussex County in two years.

Afterward the group stopped at Blairstown, the Paulins Kill Viaduct, the Delaware River Viaduct, and station sites in Pennsylvania that would also see a resumption of passenger service.

Amtrak has proposed restoring passenger service between New York City and Scranton, Pennsylvania. The plan would revive the long-dormant Lackawanna Cutoff – that ubiquitous former railroad line that looms more than 100 feet in some places over Frelinghuysen, Blairstown and Knowlton.

The plan calls for three trains in each direction, with a running time just under two hours from Scranton.

The proposed service would utilize upgraded existing tracks in Pennsylvania between Scranton and the Delaware Water Gap, 20 miles of restored tracks on the Lackawanna Cutoff between the Gap and Andover, and existing tracks owned and operated by New Jersey.

According to Amtrak’s Corridor Vision plan, expanding service beyond the Lackawanna Cut-off to Scranton will generate about $84 million in annual economic activity, plus $2.9 billion from one-time economic impact from construction along the corridor.

Although the resumption of service has been discussed for decades and never coming to fruition, this project, which is near final approval by Amtrak already has funding earmarked, unlike past proposals that sputtered once it came down to money.

Service could begin in five years is current timetables are kept.

Trains traveling at speeds up to 110 mph on the Lackawanna Cutoff segment would transport 380,000 riders in its first year, rising to 470,000 after three years, according to Amtrak.

“After working across the aisle for years to return rail service to Northwestern New Jersey and calling for an end of delays with bureaucratic games, it’s great to see that inspections for potential Amtrak and NJ Transit stops and station sites are ongoing,” said Gottheimer. “The Lackawanna Cut-off railway will improve convenience and travel times for hundreds of thousands of travelers across New Jersey—including across Sussex and Warren Counties.”

Passenger trains could return to Blairstown by 2028. The last one was this station in 1970.
Photo by Joe Phalon, 8/2023.
Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.