Contract signed to boost South Jersey freight-rail links

A NJ Transit train crosses from Philadelphia to South Jersey on the Delair Bridge. The bridge, the only rail link into South Jersey, cannot accommodate heavy or wide freight loads.
A NJ Transit train crosses from Philadelphia to South Jersey on the Delair Bridge. The bridge, the only rail link into South Jersey, cannot accommodate heavy or wide freight loads. (APRIL SAUL / Inquirer Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 25, 2012

South Jersey business, government, and transportation officials on Tuesday celebrated the signing of an agreement that will provide $18.5 million to improve vital freight-rail links in the region.

Though the federal stimulus funds were awarded last year, the contract-signing ceremony at the nascent Paulsboro Marine Terminal allowed local politicians to tout the windfall just two weeks before Election Day.

The federal money, coupled with local and corporate contributions, will provide $117 million to upgrade a 42-mile rail line that runs from the port of Salem through Swedesboro, Paulsboro, and Camden to the 116-year-old Delair rail bridge, which spans the Delaware River next to the Betsy Ross Bridge.

The improvements, to be made over the next three years, will allow the Delair bridge and its approach ramps to continue carrying 286,000-pound freight cars and allow trains to increase their speed to as much as 25 m.p.h. on a dilapidated 18-mile stretch between Salem and Swedesboro.

The money also will help pay for a rail link to the under-construction Paulsboro port, scheduled to open in 2014.

Standing in front of construction crews building a port bridge, officials said the freight-rail project would create 1,700 construction and 3,500 port-related jobs.

The funding agreement was signed by representatives of Conrail, Salem County, and the South Jersey Port Corp.

U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews, a Camden County Democrat, called the project "essential to the manufacturing revival" in the regional economy.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), who has been a leader in the push to build the Paulsboro port, cited New Jersey's 9.8 percent unemployment rate in praising the creation of "critical jobs" with the federal money.

Most of the federal money, $12.5 million, will go to replace steel deck girder spans on the Delair bridge and its approaches.


Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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