The 20-year effort to restore passenger rail service from New York to the Poconos is a step closer to reality now that a final study has determined there are no environmental issues blocking federal approval, New Jersey Transit officials said Thursday.
Laying 88 miles of track from Port Morris, N.J., through the Poconos to Scranton, and operating the line from Pennsylvania to Hoboken, N.J., and New York City won't affect air quality, water or the land, said officials who presented the rail plan and environmental assessment study at a public hearing in Stroudsburg.
Once completed, the service would be operated by New Jersey Transit, with nine round trips daily into New Jersey and New York from four rail stations in Monroe County, at Delaware Water Gap, East Stroudsburg, Analomink and Mount Pocono, and one in Scranton.
Jack Kanarek, senior director of project development for New Jersey Transit said the rail project is one of many projects under consideration by New Jersey Transit, which will begin a feasibility study later this year on extending train service to Phillipsburg that could support service from Lehigh Valley commuters.
''We already have one study under way and will use those results to begin a study on the I-78 corridor, which includes a detailed feasibility study of rail service to Phillipsburg,'' Kanarek said.
Bruce Davis, a co-founder of the Route 22 Coalition, which is supporting a $200 million, 3.5-mile widening of Route 22 from 15th Street in Allentown to Lehigh Valley International Airport, said he ''encourages'' a rail link in Phillipsburg. But he cautioned supporters of a rail link into the Lehigh Valley, citing the years it took Poconos officials to get their project to its present status.