Gottheimer: NJ Transit, Amtrak Must Put Aside ‘Bureaucratic Stalling’ and Advance Lackawanna Cut-Off Restoration Project

A N.J. Transit train in Montvale, N.J., in March 2018.
A N.J. Transit train in Montvale, N.J., in March 2018. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-New Jersey, recently called on NJ Transit and Amtrak to put aside bureaucratic stalling and immediately move forward with the Lackawanna Cut-off restoration project.

It would, the congressman contends, 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, Pennsylvania, to Hoboken and New York City.  

Gottheimer outlined the following steps to advance the Lackawanna Cut-off Restoration Project:

  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 investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill can be used. Amtrak’s Vision for Improving Transportation Across America, released last year, lists train service to Scranton from New York City as a priority for Amtrak’s funding in the Infrastructure Bill.

28,000 people commute between Northeast Pennsylvania, Northern New Jersey, and New York daily. Sussex County has the longest average commute time of all New Jersey counties at 38 minutes, and Vernon Township 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.

Amtrak’s Corridor Vision plan — released in May 2021 — highlighted 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 the 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,” Gottheimer said in a statement. Now, it’s up to NJ Transit to stop playing bureaucratic games, unleash the resources we’ve allocated, and get this project moving.

“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,” Gottheimer added. “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.”

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