Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties are centrally located in Pennsylvania’s Northeast Region. The area includes the region’s largest city, Scranton, with additional population centers in Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, and Pittston. To the east are Wayne and Monroe Counties; to the south, Carbon and Schuylkill Counties; to the west, Columbia and Sullivan Counties; and to the north, Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties. The figure identifies the study area’s 116 municipalities, major roadways and railroads, streams and water bodies, parks, state forests, game lands, and other managed conservation areas.
The combined physical area of Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties is approximately 1,325 square miles, or approximately 850,000 acres, and includes roughly 22 square miles of water bodies.
The landscape of the central portion of both counties is dominated by two major river valleys, the Wyoming and Lackawanna. These two river plains bisect the area diagonally southwest from northeast and are the lowest elevations, as low as 530 feet above sea level. Both valleys are bordered by a series of mountain ridges and upland areas on either side. This geography has elevations exceeding over 2,000 feet above sea level in some areas.
The two counties historically developed along the Susquehanna and Lackawanna Rivers, connected by important routes branching out from these valleys and including what are today PA Routes 6, 11, 29,115, 92, 93, 935, 435, and 309. Interstate highway access also plays an important role in more recent changes in development patterns, as well as regional mobility. Interstate 80 along the southern third of Luzerne County and Interstate 380 in southeastern Lackawanna County provide a link to the nearby New York City Metropolitan area. From Philadelphia, Interstate 476 (PA Turnpike NE Extension) follows the eastern edge of Luzerne County and terminates north of Scranton in western Lackawanna County. Interstate 81 bisects the two counties while connecting the cities of Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton to each other en route from Harrisburg and points south northward to New York State. Interstate 84 crosses the southeastern corner of Lackawanna County, providing access to New England. Construction of these roadways affected many of the municipalities in the two-county area, with new access and population and land use changes.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the combined total population for both counties is 535,355 persons. Lackawanna County has 40 municipalities, including 2 cities, 17 boroughs, and 21 townships. Luzerne County has 76 municipalities, including 4 cities, 36 boroughs, and 36 townships.