Allentown Service

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jis

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I had heard rumors that the CNJ ROW west of Glen Gardner has been encroached upon. But since I don;t live in NJ anymore it is not easy for me to go and check. For that matter I am also not sure what the state is of the High bridge Branch of the M&E I think it is still used to serve some industrial spurs, but don't know for sure. I know that the Washington Secondary is in pretty good shape between P'Burg and Hackettstown. That would be a slightly longer way but with much less freight traffic than the ex-LV line. And there lies the rub. The distance by I-78, which was built at great cost along the crest of the Watchungs is straighter and faster than any rail alignment easily available.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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Don't forget, Amtrak had committed to do an inspection/test/promotional/excursion run this year, using that Viewliner inspection car of theirs. The passengers would have been local political figures, and a few well-chosen civilian supporters. It was NS who jumped up and down, throwing a temper tantrum to stop it. Basically, forbidding Amtrak to do that single run on its tracks.

If Amtrak was willing to do this one Allentown to NYC run, I have to believe that the tracks are at least usable and complete.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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The distance by I-78, which was built at great cost along the crest of the Watchungs is straighter and faster than any rail alignment easily available.
The problem is that the I-78 route is already over traffic capacity, and is getting worse. That is why there is great interest in finding an alternative, that doesn't use any of the existing highways (ie, not using passengers cars nor buses). Rail is one possibility.
 

jis

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The distance by I-78, which was built at great cost along the crest of the Watchungs is straighter and faster than any rail alignment easily available.
The problem is that the I-78 route is already over traffic capacity, and is getting worse. That is why there is great interest in finding an alternative, that doesn't use any of the existing highways (ie, not using passengers cars nor buses). Rail is one possibility.
Yup. But the way to make it work is to create an integrated solution with rail along the spine as a component. Instead what is done is that a rail line is put together haphazardly with no planned feeder network of buses or such, so the through buses continue to run which poaches on the railroad. Lack of feeder road transport at the stations makes the train available to only those that can manage to drive and usually afford to leave the car at the station. All this gravitates against the trains actually getting the ridership that would effectively offload the highways enough to make a difference

In spite of all the horrible traffic on I-78 and I-80 NJT ridership west of Raritan (and even Raritan) on the RVL and west of Dover on the M&E falls off precipitously, so much so that there is no weekend service beyond those points. IOW it is really not a serious suburban service at all. So naturally, the impact that it has on offloading the highways is minimal to non-existent. two train car full passengers is hardly going to unclog highways.

Bottom line, unless there is willingness to regulate flow and redirect to trains all of this is a fool's errand. People seem to like to have the freedom of their car and the ability to go whenever they want and the pleasure of sitting in traffic. What can I say. It boggles my mind.
 

Seaboard92

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Slightly off topic. I've heard from a reliable source close to the cutoff route. A single land owner is holding it up. Someone who doesn't want them to rebuild a culvert on his property
 

neroden

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Slightly off topic. I've heard from a reliable source close to the cutoff route. A single land owner is holding it up. Someone who doesn't want them to rebuild a culvert on his property
Oh, good grief. This is what eminent domain is made for. In fact, I believe the landowners have legal responsibilities to maintain culverts!
 
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Thirdrail7

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I love this NS statement:

Husband stopped short of saying passenger rail to New York will never happen. But he said it won't happen without a major shift in priorities by federal and state officials who approve transportation funding.

"I wouldn't say it's dead," Husband said. "But we have no plans to consider it."
One thing seems certain. They are no longer on " the fence" with their position!

 

Cho Cho Charlie

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I love this NS statement:

Husband stopped short of saying passenger rail to New York will never happen. But he said it won't happen without a major shift in priorities by federal and state officials who approve transportation funding.

"I wouldn't say it's dead," Husband said. "But we have no plans to consider it."
One thing seems certain. They are no longer on " the fence" with their position!
My problem is that all the "locals" are all accepting what ever Husband says, as the impartial truth. However, I feel that what he is saying is being spun by him, to the advantage of his employer, NS. For example, Husband told the crowd that it was totally illegal for Amtrak to ever run a passenger train on their freight lines (including the planned one-time excursion run).

I am no legal expert, but I can think of several examples where Amtrak is currently running passenger service using freight lines, and the host rail road is not exactly thrilled by it.
 

Thirdrail7

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The bottom line is they don't want to be bothered unless you buy them off completely, which they know most places will not be able to afford.

Typical. Does anyone want to talk about restoring trains out to Chicago on their territory?

DON'T ANSWER THAT!!!!
 
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Anthony V

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Norfolk Southern may not want this, but they cannot deny Amtrak access without having issued them a report on what infrastructure upgrades would be needed for passenger service and how much they would cost. Under federal law, Amtrak has a statutory right to access any track in the country, provided they compensate the host railroad for any infrastructure upgrades needed for passenger trains or so as to not affect current freight service levels. If Amtrak finds the cost of the needed upgrades to be at an acceptable level, they will agree to them and they cannot be denied access. If (a big if) funding can be found for these needed upgrades and Amtrak is still interested in running this service by then, NS would have to accept the Amtrak trains by law.
 

jis

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We all know how that works. We already have daily Sunset Limited, right? Not!
 

neroden

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My problem is that all the "locals" are all accepting what ever Husband says, as the impartial truth. However, I feel that what he is saying is being spun by him, to the advantage of his employer, NS. For example, Husband told the crowd that it was totally illegal for Amtrak to ever run a passenger train on their freight lines (including the planned one-time excursion run).

I am no legal expert, but I can think of several examples where Amtrak is currently running passenger service using freight lines, and the host rail road is not exactly thrilled by it.
Oh yeah, if Hubbard said that he's just lying through his teeth. Amtrak can force NS to run Amtrak trains on any line they like. If NS presents an truly unreasonable price, Amtrak can go to the Surface Transportation Board and get a board-ordered price. The only reasons this hasn't been done more often is that (a) this would alienate the criminals at NS, and (b) the board-ordered price would probably still be pretty expensive; so it isn't worth it for Amtrak to do this unless there's a powerful and rich government backing Amtrak who really intends to make it happen. If the Pennsylvania Governor calls up NS and says "This route is happening, and we're going to spend what it takes, but we won't let you cheat us, so don't try anything", NS will meekly offer a reasonable price. But without a governor or someone equally powerful (mayor of a very large city perhaps) 100% behind the project, NS accurately feels that they can get away with obstruction.

Consider the Moline service. BNSF was recalcitrant at first, but they did what they were ordered to do and they charged a reasonable price for reasonable upgrades, because you do not mess with a governor's signature program. Consider Vermont. Consider North Carolina. Consider Massachusetts. All of them have done stuff in the same category. When CSX was exceptionally unreasonable and recalcitrant over the Worcester-Framingham line, Senators started making barely-veiled threats to pass federal legislation to seize the line, and CSX then made a fair deal pretty darn quick.

There just isn't enough political backing in Pennsylvania yet. Not nearly enough.

There was even *less* political backing for the daily Sunset. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, none of them have *any* political backing for the train.

For what it's worth, this is why I figure pretty much anything proposed in California has a good chance of happening. The California politicians are much more likely to back a passenger train expansion 100%, and UP and BNSF know this, so they won't be mindlessly obstructionist, they'll stick to "this is what we need to maintain freight capacity".

I wish we could get more backing in New York, but Andrew Cuomo is an automobile nut. Maybe next governor.
 
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Philly Amtrak Fan

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Unfortunately for Allentown, Pennsylvania's first rail priority is the HAR-PGH line so if PA flexes its muscles over NS, it will be there first.
 

AlanB

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The primary user for any Allentown service would be commuter rail; which would most likely be run by NJT assuming financial help from PA. I don't think that Amtrak is really interested in running service from Allentown to NY. I read things as Amtrak was offering to run a demonstration train to promote interest in restoring service; not that Amtrak wants to run service. Assuming that is correct, then Amtrak's right of access wouldn't apply anyhow, since they won't be running the service.
 

Thirdrail7

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The primary user for any Allentown service would be commuter rail; which would most likely be run by NJT assuming financial help from PA. I don't think that Amtrak is really interested in running service from Allentown to NY. I read things as Amtrak was offering to run a demonstration train to promote interest in restoring service; not that Amtrak wants to run service. Assuming that is correct, then Amtrak's right of access wouldn't apply anyhow, since they won't be running the service.
That was the intent of the trip. NJT would run the trip and NS has been indifferent since the very beginning. I don't see PA flexing any muscle over NS on this line. As PhillyAmtrakFan stated, if there is a fight, the state will save its energy for HAR-PGH line.
 

jis

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And until NJT figures out how to fund its existing service I am sure it won't run anything new. Of late it has been gently cutting its existing service mostly for off NEC routes.
 
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Cho Cho Charlie

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The primary user for any Allentown service would be commuter rail; which would most likely be run by NJT assuming financial help from PA. I don't think that Amtrak is really interested in running service from Allentown to NY. I read things as Amtrak was offering to run a demonstration train to promote interest in restoring service; not that Amtrak wants to run service. Assuming that is correct, then Amtrak's right of access wouldn't apply anyhow, since they won't be running the service.
That makes sense, a commuter rail. I don't know if NJT or SEPTA would ever have any interest in branching out their service area, even with funding.

Well, unless there is bigger plan where the Allentown area is simply a stop, a major stop, on a longer run, say from NYC to Harrisburg. Of course, I think of lot of the PA track would be owned by Norfolk Southern, and it seems, they are the current blockage for any new passenger service in PA.

BTW, as mentioned, it was Norfolk Southern's Rudy Husband, who killed that demonstration train.
 

jis

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I believe NJT does have trackage rights to P'Burg on NS, but from Hackettstown on the Washington Secondary which has very little traffic, and is actually dispatched and maintained at least upto Hackettstown by NJT even though the underlying property AFAIK is owned by NS beyond Port Morris.

The other existing route would be from Bound Brook to P'Burg on NS on a route that has very heavy freight traffic - the route that Mr. husband is apparently most concerned about. I am not sure that there is a trackage right grandfathered in when NJT abandoned the CNJ route beyond High Bridge.

But as I said, NJT is unlikely to start any new service, other than perhaps on the Andover stub if and when its long drawn out construction is completed. If and when NJT gets back up on its feet to be able to consider additional extensions, I can think of several that would take priority over P'Burg. Heck even West Trenton from Bound Brook through dlagrua's neighborhood, would have higher priority.
 

dlagrua

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I believe NJT does have trackage rights to P'Burg on NS, but from Hackettstown on the Washington Secondary which has very little traffic, and is actually dispatched and maintained at least up to Hackettstown by NJT even though the underlying property AFAIK is owned by NS beyond Port Morris.

The other existing route would be from Bound Brook to P'Burg on NS on a route that has very heavy freight traffic - the route that Mr. husband is apparently most concerned about. I am not sure that there is a trackage right grandfathered in when NJT abandoned the CNJ route beyond High Bridge.

But as I said, NJT is unlikely to start any new service, other than perhaps on the Andover stub if and when its long drawn out construction is completed. If and when NJT gets back up on its feet to be able to consider additional extensions, I can think of several that would take priority over P'Burg. Heck even West Trenton from Bound Brook through dlagrua's neighborhood, would have higher priority.
I agree with your analysis. NJT can't even get the service to the water gap restarted over the old Lackawanna cutoff Its been in the planning stages for years and years. I view service to Phillipsburg as a real long shot right now as the tracks from Highbridge west may have been cut off when RT 78 was completed. IMO there is real need for NJT service in Phillipsburg. The logjam on RT 78 W during rush hours is terrible. As for the CSX and NS RR lines going through my township; the freight traffic is constant .

As for Amtrak in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton going east to NYC; this makes for good discussion but I do not see that happpening. .
 

AlanB

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I agree with your analysis. NJT can't even get the service to the water gap restarted over the old Lackawanna cutoff Its been in the planning stages for years and years. I view service to Phillipsburg as a real long shot right now as the tracks from Highbridge west may have been cut off when RT 78 was completed. IMO there is real need for NJT service in Phillipsburg. The logjam on RT 78 W during rush hours is terrible. As for the CSX and NS RR lines going through my township; the freight traffic is constant .

As for Amtrak in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton going east to NYC; this makes for good discussion but I do not see that happpening. .
Well NJT has said more than once that the Lackawana cutoff isn't exactly a priority for them, they have bigger fish to fry. Projects that benefit more NJ residents than the Lack cutoff. But they are moving towards it, even if it is slowly.

That said, it's not like PA is exactly rushing to do anything on their side of the river to prepare for resuming service and while perhaps Jishnu will correct me, I don't think that PA has exactly rushed to the table to negotiate a contract with NJT to actually run a service into PA.
 

neroden

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The counties on the far side of the border (Monroe and Lackawanna) are very serious about Lackawanna Cutoff service; they've bought the entire route up to the border, maintained it to tourist-train and freight standards, chipped in for all the EISes, etc. There's even a functioning station platform in Scranton which could be used right now. Sadly the state of PA doesn't really give a damn about those counties. But the counties do have some political clout, so I presume NJT is trying not to alienate them. They can quite honestly say "get the tracks back in on your side of the border, we'll do the rest".

Contrast Allentown/Bethelehem, which haven't acquired any property or done anything really.
 
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jis

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Actually at present NJT does not really give a flying you know what as to what happens to the Lackawanna Cutoff or the PA counties at the other end of it. They are in survival mode, and busy figuring out how to delay doing anything further even on the extension to Anodver. There currently are no plans for funding further extension along the Lackawanna Cutoff that has even a remote chance of getting funded by NJ. At least not as long as the current regime is in place in Trenton.

NJ's main project right now is to alienate all of PA by rescinding the income tax agreement with PA. Do you suppose they really care what happens to Lackawanna County? :p
 

Anderson

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We all know how that works. We already have daily Sunset Limited, right? Not!
Well, remember the bit about "producing a report". UP (I almost said SP) did give them a report...it just "happened" to have a non-feasible price attached to it.

To be fair, if some billionaire came along and was able to give Amtrak the money to cover the price for a "get lost" price demand for starting up insert-route-here and Amtrak was suddenly able to do so, I suspect the railroad would be stuck. That just tends not to happen.
 

jis

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The problem of course was that the price tag given was not for an immediate start, but for funding infrastructure improvements, only after the completion of which there would be a start. UP actually placed itself in a win-win situation no matter what happened.
 

neroden

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Actually at present NJT does not really give a flying you know what as to what happens to the Lackawanna Cutoff or the PA counties at the other end of it. They are in survival mode, and busy figuring out how to delay doing anything further even on the extension to Anodver. There currently are no plans for funding further extension along the Lackawanna Cutoff that has even a remote chance of getting funded by NJ. At least not as long as the current regime is in place in Trenton.

NJ's main project right now is to alienate all of PA by rescinding the income tax agreement with PA. Do you suppose they really care what happens to Lackawanna County? :p
Not a good idea to make more enemies. I always figured that's why they kept it on the project list but slow-walked it. It's not actually completely outside the Scranton-area budget to buy up the Cutoff themselves, but it wasn't considered necessary...
 
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