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Business program features infrastructure – Times News Online

Published July 23. 2022 07:49AM

Infrastructure was recently a topic on the local television program, “Business Matters.”

Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9th District, and Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, both up for re-election, sat down with host Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. Rep. Matthew Cartwright had planned to attend, but canceled due to a death in the family.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is of particular interest in the Poconos, because re-establishing passenger railway service from New York City through the Poconos to Scranton has been a goal for decades.

The Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority has spearheaded much of the preliminary engineering and environmental reports. The work has been completed, laying the track for Amtrak to connect its line in New Jersey to the Poconos.

Through the infrastructure act, Amtrak has received $66 billion for rail service. The company has allotted $22 billion for passenger rail service, which could go into the Poconos up to Scranton, into the Lehigh Valley to Allentown, and into Reading through Philadelphia.

Meuser said in an interview before the taping of the show that he is supportive of the passenger rail project, but not the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The reconciliation package known as the Build Back Better bill, which had originally been part of the American Jobs Plan, did pass in the House of Representatives, but has not passed in the Senate.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act amounts to $1.2 trillion. The Build Back Better bill was originally proposed in the spring of 2021 at $3.5 trillion, but has been negotiated down to $2.2 trillion.

According to a summary of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Congress’s website, the bill covers not only federal aid for highways and railways, but also funding for a transportation infrastructure financing program, transportation research, highway and motor vehicle safety, tractor trailer transportation, emergency management of hazardous materials, boating safety, Native American infrastructure issues, public transportation, electric grid infrastructure, supply chains, clean energy technologies, fuels and infrastructure investment, plug abandoned oil and gas wells, reclamation of abandoned coal mines, western water infrastructure, clean water, drinking water, broadband upgrades, wildfire mitigation, reforestation, recycling, and cyber security.

Wild said, “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made historic investments in updating and expanding our nation’s physical infrastructure, including significant investments to expanding passenger rail service.

“Our region is already conveniently located between New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia and I am excited at the prospect of passenger line expansion in the district. As projects continue to evolve, I look forward to being a part of the process.”

The Amtrak Connects US plan estimates that the new passenger line would generate $87 million in annual economic activity in the Poconos.

Meuser said he thinks with some smart investing and the right financial plan, the passenger rail system could be very useful, improve the quality of life, and increase economic vibrancy, but it also needs to deliver a return on the investment.

“I think that can be done,” he said.

Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, interviews U.S. Rep. Susan Wild and U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser during a taping of his show “Business Matters” at St. Luke’s Center in Allentown. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS

Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, invited U.S. Rep. Susan Wild and U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser to discuss a variety of topics during a taping of his show Business Matters at St. Luke’s Center in Allentown. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS

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