Saturday, August 28, 2010

The First High Speed Rail Line in the World

The Lackawanna Cut-Off was the world's first high-speed rail line. Built at a gentle grade (or slope) with no road crossings and no rail intersections, the line connects the steel town of Scranton, Pennsylvania with the ports in New York and eastern New Jersey. The Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western wanted a safe and fast way to run freight through the rugged terrain of the Pocono and Kitatinny mountains.

The line was completed in 1911.

In the 1980's the railroads abandoned the line as truck and air transportation became the preferred method of moving freight through the region and as the steel and cement industry in eastern Pennsylvania evaporated, but the line remains physically intact today.

Now, in a new millennium, the idea of efficient, fast and safe rail travel has been reborn in the United States. The federal government has set an ambitious plan to connect superregions like the Texas Triangle and the Pacific Northwest together using trains that run over 110 miles per hour.

One hundred years ago the DL&W was already doing that over the Lackawanna Cut-Off.

So far, $10.5 billion has been dedicated to establishing high speed rail in the United States.

For a mere $551 million the Lackawanna Cut-Off could be restored, connected to the existing high-speed Northeast Corridor, and an underprivileged region of eastern Pennsylvania could be New York City's new exurb.

The passenger rail line would serve Sussex County, New Jersey, the Delaware Water Gap, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and the Pocono region between New York and Scranton. The Scranton-Wilkes Barre area could see an economic resurgence with the growth of a reverse-commute into the metropolitan area.

New Jersey Transit, which operates trains approaching New York from the west, already has a proposal to make it a reality. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other New York politicians have expressed their desire to restore the line and extend it to Binghamton, NY to serve New York state's oft-neglected southern tier.

Why not start the US's high speed rail revolution where it started?

We should restore the Lackawanna Cut-Off.

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