Amtrak plans expanded service in Pennsylvania

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania could see some major expansions of rail passenger service in the near future.

It’s part of a plan by Amtrak to improve its service across the country.

In a virtual meeting with Governor Tom Wolf and state and local leaders, Amtrak officials shared their proposals for adding to and expanding their routes. Two of these expansions will involve Harrisburg.

The Keystone Corridor, which runs from Harrisburg to Philadelphia to New York (and vice versa), would expand from twelve daily round trips to seventeen. In addition, Amtrak hopes to increase train speed between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 125 miles per hour.

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“These changes could add an additional four hundred thousand new riders annually, in addition to the typical ridership of 1.8 million today,” Amtrak President Stephen Gardner said.

The Pennsylvanian, which travels from New York, through Philadelphia and Harrisburg out to Pittsburgh, would add a second daily round trip, one of which would continue to Cleveland, Ohio.

In addition, Amtrak plans to add three new routes: a Reading to Philadelphia to New York connection (three round trips daily), a Scranton to New York route (also three round trips daily), and service between Allentown and New York (two round trips daily). These are all Pennsylvania cities that used to have rail service; Scranton’s last passenger train ran in 1970, Allentown’s final departure was 1979, and Reading’s last ride was in 1981. Local leaders are enthusiastic about the prospect of taking the train again.

“This is a hundred-year plan, this is how we should be thinking,” Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti said.

“After years of meetings and letters and studies and an awful lot of talk,” Congressman Matt Cartwright said. “We are closer than ever before to ail cars hitting rails.”

“Linking these communities with intercity passenger rail service would create new economic opportunities, and provide the region with a sustainable, safe, convenient and low carbon travel option,” Stephen Gardner said.

Amtrak hopes to be able to start these services within three years of receiving funding. They expect their total, nationwide project to take until 2035. Much of the money for these projects would come from the federal government. The infrastructure bill, which is still pending in Congress, includes $66 billion for Amtrak projects.

“What we’re trying to do in this plan, is make the biggest investment in passenger rail, since Amtrak was created fifty years ago,” Congressman Cartwright said.

Gov. Tom Wolf is optimistic the funding will pass.

“We have Federal leaders at the helm that now understand the importance of investing in the future of our transportation infrastructure.”

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