LVPC: ‘A lot of unanswered questions’ in Amtrak passenger rail plan

Written by on September 14, 2021

Lehigh Vally Planning Committee: ‘A lot of unanswered questions’ in Amtrak passenger rail plan 

By Hayden Mitman

September 14, 2021

(AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – If the infrastructure element of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda is approved by Congress, Amtrak believes they could return passenger rail to the region. 

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But, Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, said that might be wishful thinking. 

She said there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to Amtrak’s passenger rail proposal.

“I wouldn’t say this is a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. But, it’s something that is part of the discussion for the region,” she said. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions. How would it be paid for? Is the state going to cover the cost of that? Because our local transit budget can not support that extension.”

Amtrak’s plan for the region would see new trains connect Philadelphia to Reading as well as Scranton and Allentown to New York City via Newark, N.J. 

Bradley also wondered what impact rail could have on area farmland and if gentrification might be an issue near new stations.  

And, what about Norfolk Southern, the freight company that owns much of the existing track Amtrak would need?

It has been historically unwilling to share its freight lines. 

“Norfolk Southern is obligated to try to work with them on that, and that’s in the federal law but they have to come to an agreement. And, we don’t even know what that would be,” Bradley said. 

Instead, Bradley said, further improvements to LANTA’s bus lines are a more realistic solution.

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