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Friday, June 14, 2024

Knowlton Gets Behind Amtrak Service Through Warren

The Knowlton Township township committee has gotten aboard Amtrak’s plans to restore passenger service between New York and Scranton, which would operate on tracks rebuilt through the township.

The National Rail Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak, has proposed the service, which would include the rebuilding the long-dormant Lackawanna Cut-Off, that ubiquitous former railroad line that looms more than 100 feet in some places over Knowlton, Blairstown and Frelinghuysen. The route includes the massive concrete viaducts over the Paulins Kill and the Delaware River.

The Federal Railroad Administration has included Northeastern Pennsylvania in its Corridor ID Program with the goal of reestablishing direct passenger rail service between Scranton, Pennsylvania and New York City. The Corridor ID Program was established as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to assist with the development of intercity passenger rail corridors.

Amtrak issued a detailed study for the resumption of passenger service between New York and Scranton earlier in early 2023, and the proposal has since passed several levels of approval. A final determination is expected this year.

Knowlton Mayor Debra Shipps said she is in favor of the new passenger trains, but added the plans needs to conform to current standards for safety and the environment.

The Blairstown township committee endorsed the proposal this past January, noting that the town is named after John I. Blair, the railroad baron who shaped the railroad industry through much of Warren County.

Amtrak claimed that trains on the Lackawanna Cut-Off segment would transport 380,000 riders in its first year, rising to 470,000 after three years. The route through Warren County, currently overgrown trails, would be rebuilt to high-speed standards with trains passing through Knowlton at speeds up to 110 mph.

Amtrak claimed the regions surrounding the restored service would see up to $84 million each year in economic activity. The study also said the service would include $20 million in user benefits such as decreased travel time.

The costs of upgrading the tracks to federal standards for passenger trains would be between $99 million and $176 million. That estimate, however, is only for the Pennsylvania portion of the line and does not include the costs associated with restoration of the cut-off and other improvements on the New Jersey portion from the Delaware Water Gap to Andover. There, NJ Transit is currently restoring tracks to connect to New York.

While the trains would not stop in Knowlton itself, passengers can board in Blairstown, where a station is currently planned. Until passenger service was discontinued in 1979, Blairstown, even then, was the only stop in Warren County.

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.