Light-rail plan draws both backers and foes

Posted: November 21, 2013

PITMAN A proposed $1.6 billion South Jersey light-rail line drew scores of area residents to Pitman on Tuesday evening to review the plans for possible operation by 2019.

Another similar "open house" meeting is scheduled for Camden on Thursday as planners explain where the 18-mile route would go and what information they are gathering for their environmental-impact statement.

The long-discussed rail line would restore passenger service to a corridor now used only for freight trains and run between Glassboro and Camden, with 14 stops.

It remains unclear how the line would be paid for or who would operate the trains.

The Delaware River Port Authority is overseeing the ongoing environmental studies, but DRPA officials have said the agency will not pay for or run the rail line. NJ Transit has not committed to paying for it or operating it.

The show-and-tell session at Pitman High School drew more than 100 area residents to talk to officials from STV Inc., the engineering firm conducting an $8.1 million environmental survey to determine what effects the line might have and how to deal with them.

The draft version of the environmental-impact statement is supposed to be published next spring, followed by hearings. A final impact statement is to be issued in late fall.

If the project gets the go-ahead from federal and state officials at that point, construction could start in 2016 and trains could be running by 2019, said Joe North, project manager for STV.

Both supporters and opponents turned out Tuesday.

Arlene Burgy, who recently moved to Pitman from Palmyra, said she expected the train would bring crime, noise, and disruption. She likened it to the River Line, the Camden-to-Trenton light-rail line that runs through Palmyra, which she said she did not like.

"Everybody talks about economic development, but what about us?" she said. "Nobody's worried about the homeowners."

Rod Pello, a retired engineer from Woodbury, said he wished the train was already in service, and he said he expected it would bring jobs and people to Woodbury.

"Woodbury needs a shot in the arm," he said. "I think it would do a lot for the tax base and the foot traffic for businesses."

Preliminary plans call for trains operating every 71/2 minutes during peak hours and 15 minutes during nonpeak times. Trains would operate until midnight, and as many as 18,000 daily riders are expected by 2030.

The ongoing environmental-impact study is to examine effects of noise and vibration, air pollution, social and economic changes, and historic preservation efforts.

The line would run alongside a Conrail freight line through Glassboro, Pitman, Mantua, Wenonah, Woodbury, Deptford, West Deptford, Westville, Bellmawr, Brooklawn, Gloucester City, and Camden.

It would connect to PATCO and River Line trains at the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden, where passengers could catch trains to Philadelphia or Trenton.

A trip from Glassboro to Camden would take from 34 to 40 minutes, planners estimate.

The Thursday meeting in Camden will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Heart of Camden community organization's headquarters, 1840 S. Broadway.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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