Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA-08) announced that two of his bipartisan bills aimed at benefitting the Pocono region were included in the 2023 federal omnibus spending package that passed Friday.
The first, H.R. 6364, will extend the use of U.S. Route 209 within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to light commercial vehicles. The bill will also ensure emergency vehicles and school buses can continue using that same section of Highway 209 toll-free.
The bill was co-sponsored in the House by Republican Congressmen Dan Meuser (PA-09) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and led in the Senate by Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA).
In 1981, the National Park Service received jurisdiction over the section of Route 209 within the national recreation area. Two years later, the 1983 Supplemental Appropriations Act closed the federally owned segment of Route 209 to all commercial traffic except for light commercial vehicles serving businesses or people located in, or along, the boundaries of the national recreation area.
Since then, the commercial vehicle exemption has been reauthorized by Congress multiple times with the latest exemption expiring Sept. 30. This new legislation extends the current commercial vehicle exemption until September 30, 2026.
Cartwright’s Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act also passed in the omnibus package.
The Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act helps protect and restore native plant species in national parks and recreation areas throughout the United States like the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This bipartisan legislation would establish a pilot program in National Park Service regions to prioritize the use of native plant species and prevent the spread of invasive non-native species, which can outcompete native plants and transform entire ecosystems, causing irreparable harm to local wildlife. It would also direct the Department of Interior to review and submit to Congress the cost-effectiveness of using native plants.
The bill was co-sponsored in the House by Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) and led in the Senate by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
“The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is one our district’s greatest outdoor recreation areas and home to a stretch of road that’s essential to the business community and residents in the surrounding area. Thanks to the Route 209 legislation and my Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act, we can protect Northeastern Pennsylvania’s local economy and access for school buses and emergency vehicles while helping preserve the ecosystem of our beloved natural landscapes,” said Rep. Cartwright. “I am grateful for the robust bipartisan support for both of these bills and their passage is proof that both parties recognize the value of environmental stewardship while ensuring the prosperity of local businesses and industry.”