RELEASE: Gottheimer Fights to Push Lackawanna Cut-off Railway Forward. Calls on NJ Transit & Amtrak to Immediately Move Forward With Restoration Project. Project to Expand Rail Service Between Sussex County & NYC. Utilizing Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Investment. Helping Jersey Commuters, Combating Congestion, Boosting Tourism, Growing the Local Economy

 

Above: Gottheimer today at the future site of the park-and-ride station for the Lackawanna Cut-off railway.

ANDOVER, NJ — Today, March 21, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) called on NJ Transit and Amtrak to put aside bureaucratic stalling and immediately move forward with the Lackawanna Cut-off restoration project — to finally bring quality rail service to Sussex and Warren Counties, helping commuters, stimulating tourism, and boosting the local economy in Northwestern New Jersey. Gottheimer visited the future site of the park-and-ride station in Andover, which will serve the Lackawanna Cut-off railway from Scranton, PA, to Hoboken and New York City.  

Steps Gottheimer is fighting for to move the Lackawanna Cut-off Restoration Project forward:

  1. NJ Transit must fix a necessary railway culvert that Andover Township has offered to purchase the land to access. Once NJ Transit fixes the culvert, other work to restore the Lackawanna Cut-off can move forward. This work is fully paid-for in NJ Transit’s current capital plan with existing and expected resources.
  2. NJ Transit must move forward without delay and award a bid for the historic Roseville Tunnel restoration — a critical portion of Phase One of the Lackawanna Cut-off Restoration project to expand railways in North Jersey. This work is fully paid-for in NJ Transit’s current capital plan with existing and expected resources, and can draw on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
  3. NJ Transit and Amtrak must complete Phase One of the project connecting Port Morris Junction to Andover, allowing trains to run through to New York Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal — key hubs for North Jersey commuters. This work is fully paid-for in NJ Transit’s current capital plan with existing and expected resources.
  4. Allocated resources and investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill can be used. Amtrak’s Vision for Improving Transportation Across America, which was released last year, lists train service to Scranton from New York City as a key priority for the historic funding Amtrak received from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

Every day, 28,000 people commute between Northeast Pennsylvania, Northern New Jersey, and New York. Sussex County has the longest average commute time of all New Jersey counties at 38 minutes, and Vernon Township specifically has been ranked as having the worst commutes in New Jersey. Since 2011, New Jersey commute times have increased by 8.8 percent.

The Lackawanna Cut-off railway will improve convenience and travel times for hundreds of thousands of travelers across New Jersey — including in Andover and across Sussex County via NJ Transit regional rail — and will bring significant benefits to our families and our communities — reducing congestion on our roads, boosting tourism, and helping grow our local economies. 

According to Amtrak’s Corridor Vision plan — released in May 2021 — expanding service beyond the Lackawanna Cut-off to Scranton, Pennsylvania, will generate about $87 million in annual economic activity, plus $2.9 billion from one-time economic impact from construction along the corridor.

“One of the major reasons I fought for rail and transit resources in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that I helped draft, and that was signed into law just a few months ago, was that it would help invest in the Lakawanna Cut-off railway. Now, it’s up to NJ Transit to stop playing bureaucratic games, unleash the resources we’ve allocated, and get this project moving,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “There are zero options for folks in Sussex County to make their life easier and get on a train to get to work, or to see a family member. I’ve heard from so many residents, businesses, and local elected officials about this issue, and of the urgent need for more transportation options to New York City from across Sussex. The Lackawanna Cut-off railway is a key part of the solution.”

Earlier this month, Gottheimer spoke with NJ Transit stressing the importance of getting Phase One of the project moving forward, calling on the agency to immediately take action for our families and small businesses.

Gottheimer was joined today in Andover by Andover Mayor Thomas Walsh, Andover Committeeman Eric Carr, Andover Committeewoman Janis McGovern, and North Jersey Rail Commuter Association President Chuck Walsh.

 


 

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

I’m here today in Andover at the future site of the park-and-ride station that will serve the Lackawanna Cut-off railway from Scranton, Pennsylvania to Hoboken – and on to New York City. After far too many years of waiting, thanks to great cooperation with our local elected officials here, Sussex County will finally have quality rail service, helping commuters, stimulating tourism, and boosting the local economy.  

One of the major reasons I fought for rail and transit resources in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that I helped draft, and that was signed into law just a few months ago, was that it would help invest in the Lakawanna Cut-off railway. Now, it’s up to NJ Transit to stop playing bureaucratic games, unleash the resources we’ve allocated, and get this project moving. 

We’ve been waiting far too long to get this project moving. And there’s clearly a need for it. 

Every day, 28,000 people commute between Northeast Pennsylvania, Northern New Jersey, and New York. Sussex County has the longest average commute time of all New Jersey counties — 38 minutes. Vernon Township has been ranked as having the worst commutes in the entire state. And since 2011, New Jersey commute times have increased by 8.8 percent.

And yet, there are zero options for folks in Sussex County to make their life easier and get on a train to get to work, or to see a family member. I’ve heard from so many residents, businesses, and local elected officials about this issue, and of the urgent need for more transportation options to New York City from across Sussex and of course into Warren.

The Lackawanna Cut-off railway is a key part of the solution – and will improve convenience and travel times for hundreds of thousands of travelers across the state, including right here in Andover and across Sussex County via NJ Transit regional rail. On top of what NJ Transit provides, Amtrak will add three round trips daily between Scranton and New York, running right through North Jersey.

Unfortunately, though, because of endless bureaucratic nonsense and constant stalling, this project has been trudging along for more than a decade. And that’s what many of us, including the local mayor and council here, and Senator Oroho, and Assemblymen Wirths and Space have been fighting back against. In fact, Senator Oroho and I were just on a call with NJ Transit about this very issue earlier this month, stressing the importance of getting this project moving for our families and small businesses.

Work on the Lackawanna Cut-off project began back in 2011, but was paused in 2015 because NJ Transit could not access and upgrade the railway culvert on Hudson Farms. At the time, it seemed that Andover and NJ Transit had resolved this issue, but not so fast. 

So, in 2018, I sent a letter to NJ Transit urging them to allow the community, as they had asked, to upgrade a necessary railway culvert. Soon after, NJ Transit agreed and released a project schedule including the culvert — a positive development after years of delay. Yet, it’s now 2022, and NJ Transit continues to hold things up. .

NJ Transit must stop playing bureaucratic games with the culvert and allow these resources to be unleashed and move forward as we allocated..

Also, NJ Transit mustt get moving on the historic Roseville Tunnel restoration — which is part of Phase One of the Lackawanna Cut-off Restoration project to expand railways in North Jersey. Overall, this project has been subject to repeated delays and uncertain timetables, with regulatory hurdles, red tape, property disputes, and inter-agency negotiations over the last 15 years. 

Now is the time to fix this. Beyond making commuting much easier for folks, so they can get to work and see their kids at night, this train will result in real economic opportunity for the region.

According to Amtrak’s Corridor Vision plan – released in May 2021 – expanding service beyond the Lackawanna Cut-off to Scranton, Pennsylvania, will generate about $87 million in annual economic activity, plus $2.9 billion from one-time economic impact from construction along the corridor.

So, today, I’m calling on NJ Transit to move forward without delay, and award a bid for Phase One of the Lackawanna Cut-off Restoration Project — which includes restoring the Roseville Tunnel and dealing with the culvert right here. This project is fully paid for in NJ Transit’s current capital plan with existing and expected resources. And, as I mentioned, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which I helped shape and pass, NJ Transit will claw back about $4.5 billion over five years to improve public transportation options, including the Lackawanna Cut-Off restoration project. 

So, let me make this clear, they have the resources. They just have to cut the bureaucratic nonsense and get to work.

Again, as soon as NJ Transit fixes the culvert and awards a bid for the tunnel, this project can begin.

Completing Phase One,dealing with the culvert and restoring the Roseville tunnel, is key to finally having quality rail service right here in Northern Jersey. 

Just a little more background on the Lackawanna Cut-off. It was actually built back in 1911 and ran west for about 28 miles between Port Morris Junction in Port Morris, New Jersey, and Slateford Junction in Slateford, Pennsylvania. It was part of a 400-mile line between Hoboken, New Jersey, and Buffalo, New York — imagine that. An incredible infrastructure feat for the time. It runs from Port Morris, Andover, Johnsonburg, and Blairstown, and then ends in Slateford, Pennsylvania, about an hour outside of Scranton.

The Cut-off remained operational for 68 years until 1979 and the tracks were removed in 1984. 

On a broader note, for Jersey to compete, to attract families and businesses, and for America to win in the global marketplace, we must turn our rails around. Last year, China spent $3.7 trillion dollars on infrastructure outside of their country – and we can barely connect neighboring states and North Jersey towns via rail.

Now, with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill passed and investment for our rails secured, we are clawing federal tax dollars back to Jersey to finally improve and repair NJ Transit and local commute times; and ensure folks can safely get to work and back home to their families — not to mention, provide new opportunities for recreational travel and tourism. All of this can be done while boosting up our region’s economy at a critical time.

The benefits of this project are clear: Aside from all of the commuting benefits for families, an expanded transit network means fewer cars on the road, which will reduce vehicle emissions and pollution, highway congestion, and transportation costs and delays.

The bipartisan infrastructure law will also deliver investment for future phases of the Lackawanna Cutoff project — providing commuters a line between Slateford Junction, Pennsylvania, and Port Morris, New Jersey, where it will connect with NJ Transit’s Montclair and Boonton/Morristown Line. The ultimate vision for the future of the Lackawanna Cut-off is to restore the missing 28-mile section and restore commuter service between Pennsylvania and New Jersey/Metro New York. 

Beyond the Lackawanna Cut-off, Amtrak’s Vision for Improving Transportation Across America, released last year, lists train service to Scranton from New York City as a key priority for the historic funding Amtrak received under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. The Lackawanna Cut-off is a necessary and critical part of that broader plan to expand passenger rail service from New York City to Scranton. 

With the bids for the Roseville Tunnel submitted and momentum from Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill investment on our side, I strongly urge NJ Transit and Amtrak to move forward with the Lackawanna Cut-off Restoration project today. Doing so will bring significant benefits to Sussex County and Northern New Jersey, our families, and our communities — reducing congestion on our roads, improving commutes, boosting tourism, and helping grow our local economies. I look forward to working closely with NJ Transit and Amtrak to bring quality, expansive rail service to North Jersey as soon as possible — without delay.

Now is the time to move forward. 

By working together to restore and expand New Jersey’s transportation and improve our infrastructure, I know our best days will always be ahead of us.

May God bless you and may God bless these United States of America.

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