The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Lehigh Valley explores possible passenger rail routes

Photo by Patrick Hansell for The Lafayette
The Lehigh Valley Railroad currently sits abandoned on the Delaware River, located half a mile away from Downtown Easton.

A long-awaited study was presented by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission on March 27 which discussed the possibilities of a passenger rail system connecting the Lehigh Valley to nearby cities. There is currently no such system in the Lehigh Valley.

The study, known as the Lehigh Valley Rail Feasibility Analysis, identified the five most likely routes that the passenger rail would take:

  • Allentown to New York, via Hackettstown, New Jersey or High Bridge, New Jersey
  • Allentown to Philadelphia via Lansdale, Pennsylvania
  • Allentown to Philadelphia via Norristown, Pennsylvania
  • Allentown to Reading, Pennsylvania

Of these possibilities, the two routes to New York could travel directly through Easton.

Efforts to bring passenger rail to Lehigh Valley have been ongoing for over 30 years. The timeline for the current project is a minimum of 10 to 12 years.

“There’s still a very long process between where we are now and getting into construction,” said Liz Heinz, a project manager at study consultant WSP, a local engineering consulting company. She said it “will incur millions in professional services costs.”

The Allentown to New York via Hackettstown line, which would stop in Easton, would result in an estimated capital cost of $474.9 million, according to the study. It would require cooperation from New Jersey’s government.

One of the biggest hurdles currently facing the rail lines’ creation is a lack of funding, according to the study. The project is currently looking for outside funding opportunities to finance the rail system.

“You would have to look to federal money for probably a large cost for capital,” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation representative Angela Watson said at the presentation. “We don’t have a dedicated passenger rail pot of funds per se.”

Some students are excited about what a passenger rail could mean for the Lafayette community. John Oramas ‘27, a student from New York, said his trip home “is a bit inconvenient.”

“The bus and driving does take a while,” Oramas said. “The train would be more direct, and hopefully, it would be cheaper.”

“I just think having the option to make Philly and New York feel a little bit closer, would bring so many more opportunities,” Rebecca Capone ‘27 said. “So I think it sounds like a great idea.”

Lafayette has not had direct access to a passenger rail system since 1961 when Lehigh Valley Railroad closed the last of its passenger trains. An abandoned Easton station still stands along West Canal Street.

“I probably won’t see it in my lifetime, but we’re going to keep working towards passenger rail,” Easton Mayor Salvatore Panto said during the March 27 city council meeting.

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About the Contributors
Makenna McCall
Makenna McCall, Staff News Writer
Tall, left-handed and stupid.
Patrick Hansell
Patrick Hansell, Staff Photographer

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