Amtrak route's reprieve a relief to W.Pa. riders
Sherry Bolha of Unity took her 15-year-old son, Bradley, on his first train trip last week — an educational experience to New York City.
What made the trip easier and convenient for Bolha was that she boarded Amtrak's Pennsylvanian line close to home in Latrobe.
“I love to ride the train,” Bolha said, who recalled that her father, whose poor eyesight did not allow him to drive, used to ride the train to Lewistown to the Beacon Lodge Camp for the blind.
A frequent train rider, Klaudia Long of Latrobe, a freshman at Barnard College in Manhattan, said she also liked the convenience of taking the train from the Latrobe station to New York City.
“You can't get a seat on that train” because it's so popular, said Long.
Travelers such as Long and Bolha will be able to continue to enjoy the convenience of boarding the train in Latrobe and traveling to Pittsburgh and Chicago or to Harrisburg and Philadelphia now that the Pennsylvanian route, which was in danger of being discontinued, has been saved by the state.
“I'm very excited,” said Long, who planned to ride the train back to New York City once her spring break ended last weekend.
Gov. Tom Corbett announced last week that the state reached an agreement with Amtrak on a new funding plan to maintain the daily passenger service between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, which will cost the state $3.8 million rather than $6.5 million as previously estimated.
“I applaud Amtrak for its willingness to work with my administration on a funding plan that makes sense for Pennsylvania in these difficult economic times and maintains this passenger rail service that provides important connections for many towns in western Pennsylvania,” Corbett said in a statement.
The service, which the state restored in the early 1980s after working with Amtrak, is subject to a new funding agreement that requires the federal passenger rail service to recover more costs than previously.
The lower funding level falls within the capabilities of the Corbett administration's transportation plan and maintains service west of Harrisburg, with stops in Lewistown, Huntingdon, Tyrone, Altoona, Johnstown, Latrobe, Greensburg and finally Pittsburgh, the governor's office said.
Corbett said the state General Assembly must act this spring “to advance my transportation plan, so we can meet this funding need.”
The governor's Multimodal Transportation Fund would appropriate about $80 million over several years to assist with railways and other transportation projects.
The future of passenger rail service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg was up in the air because federal law had eliminated funding for railroad lines of less than 750 miles.
Even if the state was able to save the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg train route with less money than originally estimated, “it's really a heavy subsidy,” said Jake Haulk, an economist and president of Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Castle Shannon, a conservative think tank.
A 41⁄2-hour train trip between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg will not attract sufficient riders to make money when a bus trip between the two cities is quicker and less costly, Haulk said.
“I don't understand why they feel the need to continue the subsidy,” Haulk said. The subsidy per rider is about the same, even if the state's contribution drops, he noted.
Haulk suspects that Corbett engineered the subsidy deal for reasons other than economics.
“Economically, it's a loser. Politically, it's not a loser,” Haulk said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fundraising for Greater Latrobe school project easy as PIE
- Area families host inner-city kids for unique vacations
- Youth day camp program a hit at Latrobe’s Legion-Keener Park