Gov. McGreevey Announces $80 Million
For Freight Rail Improvements
(Elizabeth) - Gov. James E. McGreevey today announced an $80 million program to improve freight rail access to Port Newark/Elizabeth and the Meadowlands to help slow the increase of truck traffic on the state's highways and preserve job growth in the competitive shipping industry.
"This is a perfect example of how Smart Growth can work for New Jersey by creating economic opportunity in our older developed areas without bringing more traffic," McGreevey said. "With the freight industry expected to grow 90 percent over the next 20 years, these investments are critical to keep Port Newark/Elizabeth the busiest container port on the East Coast."
The program includes:
- A joint $50 million initiative between the state and Norfolk Southern, CSX and Conrail to increase rail capacity in the Port Newark/Elizabeth marine terminal complex, Oak Island Yard and along a 10-mile stretch of the Lehigh Valley Line leading into the port. The state and the railroads will each provide $25 million.
- Another $30 million will be used to eliminate a grade crossing at Norfolk Southern's Croxton Yard in Secaucus by building a bridge to carry New County Road over the yard. The crossing now acts as a bottleneck and is expected to experience more traffic with the opening of the nearby Secaucus Transfer station later this year.
McGreevey and Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere announced the program following a meeting with leaders of the port industry at the Port Authority Marine Terminal. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is funding the New County Road project and the state's half share of the $50 million joint agreement. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has reached agreements in principle with the Port Authority and the railroads on the funding plan.
"An average freight train takes 200,000 trucks a year off New Jersey highways while consuming a fraction of the energy," said Lettiere. "Here is an opportunity to increase rail capacity in one of the nation's most densely developed areas simply by using existing right-of-way. It would be foolish not to take advantage."
The three railroads now carry 25 million tons of freight a year into northern New Jersey terminals, compared with 283 million tons moved annually by truck. The railroads believe a modernized rail system could double their share of intermodal business and increase merchandise carloads by 50 percent. Much of the work would involve restoring track that had been removed when the rail industry was in decline.
The $50 million program would include:
- Adding a second mainline track on the Chemical Coast Line serving the port complex to relieve congestion and improve efficiency;
- Provide a second track near Conrail's Oak Island Yard to improve train movements and eliminate delays;
- Provide a second main line track on the Lehigh Valley Line between Bound Brook and Clark to allow trains to move in both directions simultaneously, eliminating the need to idle on sidings;
- Acquire additional property in Oak Island to accommodate additional capacity and eliminate the "mountain" of stored containers that has grown over the years.
Lettiere said the funding marks the first stage in a multi-year effort to upgrade freight rail infrastructure in northern New Jersey.
The DOT has already worked with the railroads and South Amboy on developing a $12 million project to construct new rail and highway bridges to the city's waterfront development area. Under a $2 million agreement with Perth Amboy and the railroads, a rail line will be relocated to accommodate the construction of a new municipal complex. And in Hackensack, agreement has been reached on replacing a rail bridge to relieve a local road bottleneck and accommodate modern rail cars.