Amending the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Improvement Act to Extend the Exception to the Closure of Certain Roads Within the Recreation Area for Local Businesses, and for Other Purposes

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 28, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARTWRIGHT. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Michigan for the opportunity to speak about this important bill, H.R. 6364, which would extend the use of Federally owned portions of Highway 209 by certain commercial vehicles serving northeastern Pennsylvania small businesses.

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area stretches across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, preserving 70,000 acres of land on both sides of the Delaware River.

Highway 209, which runs through Pennsylvania northwards into New York, cuts directly through the middle of this national recreation area. Up until the 1980s, there was heavy truck traffic all along Route 209, a heavily trafficked truck route.

In 1981, the National Park Service received jurisdiction over the section of Route 209 within that national recreation area. Then 2 years later, the 1983 Supplemental Appropriations Act closed this Federally owned segment of Highway 209 to all commercial traffic, with one exception: for light commercial vehicles serving businesses or people located in, or along, the boundaries of the national recreation area.

Since then, this limited exemption for commercial vehicles has been reauthorized by Congress multiple times on a bipartisan basis. In fact, former Pennsylvania Republican Representative Tom Marino and I co-led this same bill in 2018, this commercial vehicle exemption, that passed this body by voice vote and was signed into law by former President Trump. When that exemption expired last year, Congress included a short 1-year extension in the FY22 omnibus bill.

Mr. Speaker, that exemption expires the day after tomorrow, September 30. If Congress fails to renew the exemption, commercial traffic in northeastern Pennsylvania will be faced with limited acceptable alternatives. Commercial vehicles based in places like Monroe and Pike counties, in my district, would have to travel, as the gentlewoman mentioned, an extra 10 miles to avoid the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and small businesses locally would be hurt needlessly.

Mr. Speaker, that is why I have introduced H.R. 6364, which would simply extend the existing commercial vehicle exemption until September 30, 2026.

With this extension, qualifying commercial vehicles will be allowed to continue using the Federally owned portion of Route 209, with an annual permit.

My bill would also ensure that emergency vehicles and school buses could continue utilizing sections of Highway 209 within the boundaries of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, toll-free.

This is a commonsense bipartisan piece of legislation that is not only supported by the National Park Service and local officials but is also broadly supported here in the House, having passed unanimously out of the House Committee on Natural Resources in July.

Mr. Speaker, I will say, despite what my friend across the aisle has said, the National Park Service has confirmed that the exemption authorized under this bill poses no safety concerns.

On behalf of the entire Commonwealth, I thank Pennsylvania Republican Representatives Meuser and Fitzpatrick for cosponsoring this bill, as well as Senators Toomey and Casey, who are championing this very same measure in the Senate.

This legislation would go a long way toward protecting northeastern Pennsylvania small businesses and our regional economy, and so it is gratifying to see that we have bipartisan support for it again.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote for the bill.