Northeast Pennsylvania became an engine of the Industrial Revolution on the strength of the energy it
produced in the form of coal and the railroads that carried it to markets.
There was some neat historical symmetry in an announcement last week that a state grant of $1.3 million will
enable the Northeast Regional Railroad Authority to buy six miles of key trackage and complete its 100-mile
regional rail freight system.
The decline of the region's rail freight system mirrored the earlier decline of coal mining and related heavy
industries. And the revival of local rail freight, beginning with Monroe County in 1980 and followed by
Lackawanna County in 1985, demonstrated that freight railroads still had a substantial role to play in the
Creation of the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority in 2006, by combining the Lackawanna
and Monroe county operations, created a true regional railroad and an extremely useful tool for the region's
With the $1.3 million approved last week, the authority will acquire the final six miles of the Pocono Mainline
in Monroe County, to which it had leased access from Norfolk Southern.
Just as a vibrant rail system helped to drive the region's economy during its heyday as an industrial power,
the strengthened regional rail system will be a major player as the huge Marcellus Shale natural gas field
And, one day, the railroad's strength can contribute to the restoration of passenger rail service between
Scranton and the New York area.
The system has come a long way since the 1980s, when a few true believers began piecing together
remaining pieces of viable rail lines and connecting them into today's system. Acquisition of the last piece of
the system is a substantial milestone that ensures the economic contributions of rail access far into the