Railroad tracks run along the Lehigh River in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and consulting company WSP created a Lehigh Valley Passenger Train Rail Feasibility Analysis in March 2024. (Maeve Kelly/B&W Staff)

PennDOT considers new Lehigh Valley train routes


Five new bus routes are being considered for the Lehigh Valley passenger train service. If approved, implementation of the routes would take significant funding and could be completed within the next 10 to 12 years. 

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and consulting company WSP created a Lehigh Valley Passenger Train Rail Feasibility Analysis in March 2024, describing the re-implementation process of a passenger train service to the Lehigh Valley.

In the analysis, five prospective routes were chosen out of the initial 12 that were considered. 

Two routes would run from Allentown to New York via Hackettstown, New Jersey and High Bridge, New Jersey. Two additional routes would run from Allentown to Philadelphia via Lansdale and Norristown. The last line would run from Allentown to Reading.

Karen Pooley, a political science professor who teaches courses on city planning, said she has high hopes for the possible implementation.

“That could make housing in the Lehigh Valley a different choice to someone whose life revolves mostly around New York, knowing that getting between those two places could be easier,” Pooley said. “It would be a big amenity for our area.”

Amelia Chandless, ‘26, is an environmental studies major with a concentration in policy, planning and law. She is also the co-founder and president of Epsilon Delta Pi, the environmental honors society on campus. 

Chandless said an important benefit of passenger train services is reducing carbon emissions by giving consumers an option aside from driving their personal vehicles.

“Public transportation is a huge environmental and climate issue,” Chandless said. “There is very public information about the emissions breakdown of the United States and transportation makes up the plurality of that. It makes up the most but not th

e majority of transportation. Light-duty vehicles make up the majority.”

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 29% in the U.S.

Chandless said the accessibility and sustainability of these train lines for the average consumer is also important to consider.

“When you look at how a person takes a trip somewhere, you have to look at every single factor,” Chandless said. “When you take a train, you’re probably going to have to walk or bike, take the train, then walk or bike again, then take another train or bus. The argument is not just ‘Is this one line feasible?’ It’s the entire system.”

The placement of intermediate stations, rehabilitation of former stations and environmental impacts have yet to be included in the analysis.

Alberto Lamadrid, an economics professor focused on sustainable infrastructure, said a possible negative impact could be an increase in housing costs.

“Nowadays, in this area, there is a shortage of housing at all levels,” Lamadrid said. “Let’s say that this railway gets built. It may be that people in New York and New Jersey might start moving toward this area and that could create greater pressure on the real estate market that is already under pressure.”

Despite the possible downsides, however, he said there are many positive impacts these new lines could have on residents in Allentown and surrounding areas.

“If people decide to start taking the train, you could reduce congestion, which is very important in order to improve the air quality,” Lamadrid said. “And, typically, driving is the most dangerous thing you’re going to be doing in your day. If you get into an accident, there are going to be high losses including monetary. The fact that there’s a passenger train, that would decrease all of those risks.”


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