Faces 6

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Passenger Rail Service and the Future of Huntingdon

The following is an interesting quote from a recent story in the Pennsylvania Central Business Newspaper: "Imagine taking less than 45 minutes to travel from State College to Pittsburgh; less than two hours from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, and nine minutes from State College to Altoona." The quote refers to new high-speed train service that unfortunately bypasses Huntingdon. Huntingdon has been a passenger stop on the state's main rail line for well over 100 years. As a town that has both prospered from and endured freight trains throughout its history, it would seem unfair to lose to State College the one passenger transportation service that distinguishes Huntingdon from most other Pennsylvania communities.

State College has a larger population and eight popular football games each year. It also has vastly improving interstate access and a recently expanded airport. Huntingdon, however, ultimately has the most attractive advantage in establishing a high-speed rail line - an existing train corridor. The cost, environmental impact, and public outcry among those losing land to the proposed right-of-way from Tyrone into State College and on into Lewistown will be a huge obstacle to any plan that would link Pittsburgh to Philadelphia by high-speed rail.

The importance of retaining and, indeed, improving passenger train service is critical to Huntingdon's future. Enhanced train service would help Huntingdon County attract business and help Juniata College attract students. The county's retirement communities like Westminster Woods, would also benefit from better rail access. With modern high-speed train service, an isolated Huntingdon could turn into a Huntingdon truly located at the center of it all.

Enhanced train service would help Huntingdon County attract business and help Juniata College attract students.

The most fair and economical solution would seem to be: Huntingdon gets enhanced passenger train service and State College gets the improved airport, all connected by an improved Route 26.

In order for our area to be successful, concerned citizens from Huntingdon and our surrounding communities must be prepared to make our voice heard in Harrisburg at the proper time.

Tom Kepple has been president of Juniata College since 1998. He is a native of Murrysville, Pa.