Local residents will be hearing the unmistakable sound of trains rolling down the track more often in the
near future. That’s a welcome development for anyone who understands the efficiency of rail versus
Monroe and Lackawanna Counties’ separate rail commissions merged earlier this year to form the
Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority, a single entity that supports and promotes rail
freight transportation regionally along the 95-mile line between Delaware Water Gap and Carbondale.
Most recently Monadnock Non-Wovens in Pocono Summit was able to complete a connecting spur with
a $93,000 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation grant. East Stroudsburg’s Excel Storage Products
is seeking a slightly larger PennDOT grant to build a 750-foot spur so that it can send its steel products
out by rail.
Local captains of industry grasp something many others either don’t know or have forgotten: rail is fast;
efficient and affordable. Rail authority CEO Larry Malski says a single rail car holds as much as three or
four tractor trailers, providing industry with a substantial savings. For the country as a whole, it saves
gas and oil, not to mention alleviating road congestion.
Rail helped to open, settle and develop this great nation. For decades the railroad served as a social and
economic lifeline. Then came the invention of the automobile. The freedom it provided proved, and
remains, irresistible. Mass marketing of the automobile – including a little conspiratorial help from auto
manufacturers that helped cripple mass transit systems – meant passenger rail and even rail freight fell
out of favor. Over time in many areas, tracks decayed or were removed and shipping patterns shifted to
the internal combustion engine.
Communities within striking distance of the rail line should take notice. They have an important
transportation advantage. PennDOT, meanwhile, should continue funding rail spurs where appropriate.
The agency should also make sure that, as rail traffic continues to rise, rail crossings receive the
necessary upgrades to ensure motorists’ safety.
Inn 1985, 500 freight cars traveled over the line. That number reached 7,500 in 2005. Combining forces
allows the merged rail authority to market the entire stretch of rail as a whole to business and industry.
Officials expect use to keep climbing. That can only benefit the Pocono area and its northwestern