Lettiere presents $600,000 for Salem County
freight rail project to promote jobs, economy
(Salem) - Department of Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere announced $600,000 in funding for rehabilitation of 16 miles of freight rail track that runs through Salem County to boost economic development along the line and create jobs.
The funds will be used to rehabilitate a portion of a 16-mile stretch of freight rail that is owned by Salem County and currently leased to Southern Railroad Company of New Jersey.
“While our national economy continues to struggle, Governor McGreevey’s economic policies continue to create jobs for our residents, more than 20,500 since December,” said Commissioner Lettiere. “The $600,000 for freight rail rehabilitation in Salem County is another down payment on this administration’s commitment to supporting industry, creating jobs and reducing congestion.”
The 16-mile stretch of freight rail, built at the turn of the century, runs from Swedesboro through Woodstown to Port Salem. Aging track and flooding create inefficiencies along the line, which provides critical support to three Salem County businesses: Anchor Glass, the Port of Salem and Mannington Mills.
“Not only does this railroad benefit our existing industry and local economy, but it also benefits our roadways and overall environment,” said Senator Steve Sweeney (D-3). “The more area companies are able to efficiently utilize the rail line, the fewer number of trucks have to be utilized on our highway systems to transport those products which also contribute to improving air quality.”
The $600,000 is the first installment on a pending agreement between NJDOT and Southern Railroad to rehabilitate the line. The funds will pay for realignment, new ties, enforced rail, rebuilding of grade crossings, substructure and drainage improvements.
“Today we are taking a huge step forward towards preserving a key economic sector in Salem County,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3). “It is vital that this rail line be ‘up to speed’ in terms of efficiency so that the companies who depend on these lines for key aspects of transportation are not placed in financial jeopardy in the future.”
“This rail system is finally moving forward,” noted Assemblyman Douglas Fisher (D-3). “This project was targeted as a priority by Freeholder Kugler at the county level and that's why we lobbied aggressively for the much needed state dollars in order to make the expansion goal a reality for Salem County.”
The investment will allow the rail cars to transport additional freight, from 283,000 to 315,000 pounds, increasing shipping efficiencies and take trucks off South Jersey’s highways. The average rail car can transport the equivalent of four tractor trailer trucks. Since the Southern New Jersey Railroad took over the freight line, the traffic had increased to 2,000 cars annually.
“There is no silver bullet for reducing congestion on our highways,” said Lettiere. “But by adhering to the principles of Smart Growth, we have made great strides. Investing in our passenger and freight rail systems means more cars and trucks stay off our roads.”