By Christina Georgiou
The area has been without passenger rail service for more than 40 years, and it will probably take 12 to 15 more years for it to be restored, said SMART advocate Kirk Raup, but the new regional railroad authority will provide a legal entity that will eventually make it happen.
SMART-LV ultimately intends to connect the city, along with Bethlehem and Allentown, to Philadelphia via SEPTA and link with existing rail lines in New Jersey to provide service to New York City, Easton officials said.
Funding from federal sources for those endeavors, along with the support of both Bethlehem and Allentown, will be needed to make those connections a reality, Raup said, but creating the rail authority with the support of the Lehigh Valley's metro areas is the first step.
Raup estimates the entire project will cost $450-500 million, with 50 percent of the funding coming from federal sources, and the other half being funded locally.
Bethlehem's city council has said it will support the rail authority's creation, Raup told Easton council members.
"Although Bethlehem is going to pass a similar resolution in a few weeks, it's good to see Easton take the lead. (The return of regional rail service) just really got started here tonight," he said, adding "This has the potential to really take off from there."
For more about the SMART-LV vision for Lehigh Valley rail service restoration, visit the organization's website at www.smartlv.org