Bethlehem City Council may be slowly rolling toward the creation of an authority that would work to bring passenger rail service back to the Lehigh Valley.
Council’s community development committee unanimously is recommending that the full council consider enabling legislation that would create a Suburban-Metro Area Rail Transit Authority – SMART.
Committee chairman Bryan Callahan said it took that action after hearing a presentation about the need for such an authority when it met on Aug. 27.
A draft of that legislation, submitted by Kirk Raup of Bethlehem, is being forwarded to City Council’s solicitor for review, explained Callahan.
Raup has been working for years to get passenger rail service restored between the Lehigh Valley and New York City and Philadelphia.
Last October, Bethlehem’s council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the creation of the rail transit authority.
Easton and Bethlehem passed similar resolutions of support earlier last year.
Raup has explained an authority must be created in order to obtain state and federal funds that would be used to evaluate the feasibility of returning passenger rail service to the Lehigh Valley.
Raup has said all three cities will have to approve the creation of that transit authority as close to simultaneously as possible. He explained the authority will have to be incorporated and each city will appoint three members to it.
He has estimated establishing passenger rail service to New York and Philadelphia will cost about a half billion dollars. If local sources can come up with half the money, he hopes the federal government will pay the other half.
“We’ll have to raise upwards of $250 million locally,” Raup added.
Raup has predicted it will take at least 10 years before the first train runs.