Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rail route selected for New Jersey’s Gloucester County

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New Jersey Tuesday announced plans to restore passenger rail service along an existing rail right-of-way traversing Gloucester County, southeast of Philadelphia. The announcement was made in Woodbury, N.J., the county seat, which would be served by the route choice “NJ-3,” one of three routes that were evaluated by the Delaware River Port Authority and its rail transit subsidiary, PATCO.

Two other routes, each along a major state highway, were evaluated but turned aside, in part due to concerns about congestion and sprawl, and in part due to the higher ridership numbers projected for NJ-3. Behind the scenes, Rowan University, located in Glassboro, N.J., lobbied strenuously for the route choice selected.

Still unclear is the choice of rail mode to be used. Many Gloucester County officials and citizens seek a “one-seat ride” to Center City Philadelphia, advocated dual-power modified PATCO equipment that can operate over existing PATCO tracks, powered by third rail. Others have suggested extending New Jersey Transit’ existing RiverLINE service, a diesel light rail transit (DLRT) operation, south to Woodbury and Glassboro, with a transfer to and from Philadelphia via PATCO in Camden.

A similar dispute in the mid-1990s divided rail advocates and local officials, causing an earlier effort to falter.