Poconos Commuter Train

It's been nearly 45 years since a transit line from the Pocono area gave local New York and New Jersey commuters an alternative work route.

Federal, state and local officials joined Tuesday with approximately 150 residents and local business owners to appeal to a panel on the benefits of a commuter rail restoration project.

The discussion, held at Pocono Manor was hosted by a panel of Rep. Matt Cartwright, Federal Transit Administration Administrator Therese McMillan and Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards, who called in via video conference due to the current state government traveling ban.

Richards said she was "all ears" to the public's opinion and is in conversation with New Jersey officials on the project.

The restoration of the Lackawanna Cut-Off Line has already begun across the Delaware River, with 7.3 miles of track being laid to a new New Jersey Transit station to be constructed in Andover Township in Sussex County.

The proposed 27-mile addition would run through Monroe County and connect with the line at the Slateford Junction in Warren County. A mapped proposal shows stations in Tobyhanna, Pocono Mountain, Analomink, East Stroudsburg and Delaware Water Gap.

Cartwright spoke favorably of the project beforehand, believing a line would benefit the "growing congestion" of Interstates 80 and 280, the area's tourism rates, the environment and the cost of transportation projects. As more seats were set for the audience, he commended the turnout.

"I'm thrilled to see the level of interest here today," he said.

State Senator John Blake emphasized the region's overall interest in the project, saying there are over 20,000 eastern Pennsylvania residents commuting to northern New Jersey and New York daily.

"Roadway congestion and truck traffic on Interstate 80 and the rest of the northeast corridor are at an all-time high, and it's really not going down," Blake said.

Blake compared the region's need for better and safer connection with the larger metropolitan area to that of Portland, Maine's. He cited how impactful a transit line from the town of 65,000 to the Boston area was for both communities.