Rail link between NEPA and NYC explored
HONESDALE, PA — A handful of Wayne and Pike County township officials and media representatives boarded the Stourbridge Line’s vintage rail cars for an October 23 roundtrip excursion between Honesdale and Lackawaxen. Along the 25-mile route paralleling the scenic Lackawaxen River gorge, they heard from that railroad’s operator, Tom Myles, and state representative candidate Orland Marrero why now is the perfect time to restore a commuter rail link between Northeast PA (NEPA) and New York City.
What was originally Marrero’s vision has since become the cornerstone of his political campaign. Two months ago, when he brought the idea to Myles, a man with a lifetime of railroading experience, it started to take shape. Marrero’s idea was to make the Stourbridge Line an extension of the existing commuter rail link between Port Jervis, NY and Secaucus, NJ, thereby connecting NEPA with NJ Transit’s hub as well as Philadelphia’s SEPTA commuter line, Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station with its Amtrak, Long Island Railroad, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway and bus service. In short, it would give NEPA access, via NYC, to the rest of the nation and the world, and vice versa. “Remember those trains will run in both directions,” said Myles.
The idea is to draw commuters from Hancock, NY to the north and from Dunmore, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre to the south. Ideally, the old Erie Lackawanna Line between Hancock, NY and Lackawaxen, PA would also see commuter service restored, thus attracting commuters from Sullivan, Delaware, and Orange Counties in NY, as well as those from NEPA. Without restoration of that line, NY commuters would be forced to cross the Delaware River on one of four bridges inadequate to handle the volume of vehicular traffic the rail extension is expected to generate.
Marrero’s plan would establish six park & ride lots with shuttle bus service to Honesdale, Hawley, Shohola , Lackawaxen, and Port Jervis rail stations. The park & ride locations would be as follows: Lot A in Dunmore at the Route 6/84/81 Interchange; Lot B in Carbondale at Route 6; Lot C in Sterling at the 191/84 Interchange; Lot D in Blooming Grove at the 402/84 Interchange; Lot E in Lord’s Valley at the 739/84 Interchange and Lot F in Milford at the Route 6/84 Interchange. If commuters turn out in numbers sufficient to fill a train to capacity in Port Jervis, express service could be offered from there to Secaucus. The trip from Port Jervis to Secaucus could be made in 134 minutes. From Secaucus, service to Manhattan’s Penn Station is an additional 13-minutes; service to Hoboken, Liberty International Airport, and Giants Stadium are about the same.
Initially, Marrero wanted Myles to run the Stourbridge Line to Lackawaxen; Myles convinced him that NJ Transit should be persuaded to extend its existing service to Honesdale, based on the recent well-publicized audit of NJ Transit that found NJ Transit must generate additional ridership and revenue. Myles will meet with representatives of Norfolk Southern Railroad on November 12 to introduce the idea. If they are intrigued, a feasibility study will follow. Its purpose will be to determine if the extension is economically feasible when both infrastructure upgrades and commuter ticket prices are calculated.
Commuters currently pay $480 per calendar month for unlimited rail service between Port Jervis and New York Penn Station. With shuttle bus service that fare will increase. And then there’s the monthly parking fee.