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Pennsylvania Communities Prep for Passenger Rail Study

State transportation officials met with Wilkes-Barre officials on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for a feasibility study on passenger rail service between Wilkes-Barre and other cities, including Philadelphia.

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(TNS) — State transportation officials met with Wilkes-Barre officials on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for a feasibility study on passenger rail service between Wilkes-Barre and other cities, including Philadelphia.

"It was a very productive meeting. PennDOT is going to take on the expense of doing the study and it's going to be probably a $250,000 study," Mayor George Brown said in a phone interview after the meeting.

Brown, members of his administration, city Councilman Tony Brooks, city Controller Darren Snyder, Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Jennie Louwerse, officials from PennDOT District 4 office in Dunmore and representatives of engineering consulting firms WSP USA and KCI Technologies attended.

The purpose of the approximately 90-minute meeting was "to brainstorm with city officials their vision for the future of the city and for passenger rail," according to a press release from the Mayor's Office.

"We went around the table and everybody gave their ideas on what the study should include and what our area is looking for as far as rail service goes," Snyder said in a phone interview.

Brown said a follow-up meeting will be scheduled within 60 to 75 days to review preliminary ideas based on Wednesday's meeting and data acquired by the consultants.

In the meantime, Snyder said, "there will be some feedback via email and dialogues between the city and the consultants to determine the scope of the project."

Snyder said he got the impression that PennDOT officials believe it's a given that establishing passenger rail service would bring an economic boon to the area. So, rather than focus on that, the study would closely examine the costs associated with the project.

"They did talk about some of the roadblocks and barriers," Snyder said, citing anticipated negotiations with freight rail companies about sharing their tracks with passenger trains, and the costs of laying new railbed and track and replacing existing track.

Snyder, who has been lobbying to re-establish passenger rail service in Luzerne County for several years, said officials had been discussing such a study for decades, "and this is probably the furthest we've come as far as studies go."

Brooks said he was pleased with the willingness of PennDOT officials "to assist us in moving forward, and I'm glad PennDOT will pay for the study."

The council in March passed a resolution authorizing Brown to use $100,000 of its $37.1 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding to pay Transportation Economics and Management Systems Inc. to conduct a feasibility study, but Brown had said he preferred to deal directly with PennDOT on the matter.

© 2022 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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