McHugh suggested starting with a Lehigh Valley to New York City area route, citing the high number of bus trips between the areas daily.
Rail service in the Lehigh Valley isn’t something that is just on McHugh’s radar screen. He cited a 2010 PA State Rail Plan that identified the Lehigh Valley as a strategic freight corridor and the fact passenger rail in the eastern corridor of the state is thought of at Amtrak as a “Vision Project,” meaning it’s thought to have good potential but isn’t funded.
Speaking to the benefits of rail, McHugh stated, “Everywhere we go, economic development follows. If you are looking for a different way to revitalize a downtown, rail service brings it.”
It’s the brain child of Joe McHugh, an Amtrak executive who happens to be an Allentown native and longs for those days when passenger trains stopped at stations in all three Lehigh Valley cities.
“It’s very preliminary, but we’re going to make it happen,” said McHugh, Amtrak’s vice president of government affairs. “We’ll start in Allentown, go into Bethlehem, pass Bethlehem Steel onto Freemansburg, Easton and then New Jersey, probably at High Bridge. I’m committed to getting this done.”
During his speech at the event, McHugh urged local officials to “push harder” to make it happen, but in a breakout session later, he spoke with Pawlowski and offered to do one better.
Using existing Norfolk Southern rail lines, now used for freight trains, Amtrak could set up a test – perhaps as early as April or May – to send a passenger train between Allentown and New York. McHugh said.
With ever-increasing road congestion one of the major concerns of Lehigh Valley residents, the region’s planners are taking a fresh look at bringing back passenger rail service. They are beginning to plan now because creating a passenger rail system anywhere in the United States currently takes an average of 18 years, said Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. She said the amount of freight traffic —- tractor-trailers and box trucks — is projected to double within the next 20 years on roads in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
~ Randy Kraft, from Rail transportation in Lehigh Valley’s future, says LVPC
The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study on Tuesday launched a major study to determine how passenger rail service fits in the region’s future, and what it would take to make it happen. The “Road to Rail” effort is a move embraced by mayors of all three Valley cities, but one rail advocates know from experience will not be an easy sell.
“We’ve never really taken a hard look at this before,” said Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, which operates the LVTS. “This will not be just another study. We’re going to look at the entire transit system and how to best get people from one place to another, both outside and inside the Lehigh Valley.”
~ Matt Assad, from Will passenger rail service be a part of Lehigh Valley’s future?