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Sweeney: Glassboro to Camden line “will be included” in the Transportation Trust Fund

February 28, 2011


Saying that South Jersey would not be short-changed, Senate President and former Gloucester County Freeholder Stephen Sweeney insisted that funding for the proposed Camden to Glassboro light rail line (GCL) will be included “in any Transportation Trust Fund that is developed by the Christie administration,” according to the Gloucester County Times. The statement marks a significant development in the ongoing saga of the project, whose fate has been uncertain since Governor Jon Corzine left office.

The project, estimated at $1.3 billion, would extend passenger rail service from Camden to Glassboro, home of Rowan University.  The route, which was the result of a lengthy public process over several years, runs along an existing right of way through many of Gloucester County’s historic downtowns, and was supported by both New Jersey Future and the State Planning Commission for its potential to spur smart growth and redevelopment in an area that has seen significant sprawl over the last several decades. (The other two routes under consideration ran down highway medians and would have significantly limited the potential for transit-oriented development.) The project also enjoys wide support among elected officials, business and civic groups, and major employers in the region.  A similar project was proposed more than a decade ago but was derailed by a group of vocal opponents. Funding for that project was transferred to what became the Riverline in Burlington County.

The status of the GCL has been in jeopardy since Governor Corzine left office. In announcing the project in 2009, then-Governor Corzine committed $500 million from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to help pay for the project. It has been unclear, however, whether Governor Chris Christie would honor that commitment. In May 2010, state Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson said the Christie administration supported the line, but would not commit to funding, saying the $500 million was “Corzine’s commitment, not ours.” Since then, the project has been “slowed down,” according to Delaware River Port Aauthority CEO John Matheussen, to resolve a dispute over bidding for a new study required for federal funding.

Sweeney’s comments on the line are significant because they indicate an intention to make the GCL part of a larger upcoming negotiation between the Legislature and the administration on transportation financing, one in which Sweeney, as Senate president, will play a significant role. His comments also point to the GCL playing a major role in the north vs. south horse-trading that typically accompanies transportation funding discussions in the Legislature.

All of this bodes well for the future of the project, but there are still significant hurdles. While the DRPA has committed to seeing the project through the study phase, it has said it does not want to operate the line, and it is unclear whether NJ Transit would be willing to step in and run the line. Moreover, even if Sweeney is successful in getting $500 million for the project, that still leaves a gap of $800 million that would need to be filled, most likely by the federal government through the New Starts program, at a time when federal funding for mass transit projects is highly uncertain.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Ron Baile permalink
    February 28, 2011 8:05 pm

    I am all for the light rail project to Glassboro. However, NJT should own it and run it, not DRPA. They have reached their level of incompetance (according to the Peter Principal.

  2. john union permalink
    February 28, 2011 8:36 pm

    please don’t let this project die. sorely needed line. south jersey transportation is a joke compared to other philadelphia suburbs.

  3. Bob Foley permalink
    February 28, 2011 9:52 pm

    PATCO has a hard time managing anything (To busy traveling and sucking the public t-t)
    The River Line people would be far more qualified AND building a light rail syster like the RIVER LINE Makes nore fiscal sense.

  4. Jay Corbalis permalink*
    March 1, 2011 9:57 am

    As an aside, the Transport Politic did an excellent post recently explaining why placing rail lines in highway medians is not very conducive to transit-oriented development:

  5. Janice permalink
    March 1, 2011 10:24 am

    Please find the funding to make this happen, elected officials. We need light rail in Glassboro. I use PATCO often and hate having to drive half an hour to get to it. The bus takes over an hour from here to Philly, a light train would be faster and more efficient. This could help people who can’t afford cars, it would open up employment opportunities as well as shopping and other travel. We need this train!

  6. james bagger permalink
    March 1, 2011 2:10 pm

    janice, i’m in the same boat as you. i drive 22 slow miles round trip to lindenwold each day to save on gas, parking, and the stress of driving to city everyday. doesn’t matter who runs it, but we definitely need more transportation options in south jersey.

  7. Xplorer permalink
    March 1, 2011 2:49 pm

    Did anyone ever realize that this is 5 times the cost of the present Riverline which runs for 32 miles? Where do they get these construction numbers, they are much too high for this type of service. You would think we were building HIGH SPEED rail, its light rail DMU’s stupids, they run all over Europe on freight rights of way utilizing the same Stadler cars the Riverline already ownes.

  8. Rob Dzinski permalink
    March 1, 2011 4:00 pm

    I’m glad to hear that the project isn’t dead, but just stalled. I am skeptical however of anything that requires cooperation between Sweeney and the Governor. I think that NJT running the line will help its chances, when you consider the bad PR that the DRPA has gotten. Not to mention the public flogging that Christy has given it.

    I attended the public outreach sessions, and was pleasantly surprised by the support given by the residents. Even the Q&A that John Matheussen held in Pitman was mostly attended by supporters.

    I personally am not thrilled by the LRT design. I think we all hoped for a real “speed line” to Philadelphia, but this plan is better than nothing.

  9. Edward J. Engle permalink
    March 1, 2011 9:30 pm

    The folks that operate the “River Line” are no doubt the best qualified organization to operate the proposed line to Glassboro, and hopefully someday to Millville, NJ. The DRPA would certainly not be a good choice, as everyone knows, how many times has the public been told of the future extensions of the PATCO line that never occurred.
    The line should be built without any interference to the exsisting
    “Conrail Shared Assests” freight service, other than the possible
    need of coperation from Conrail during construction. The proposed line is certainly needed as the highways of South Jersey need releif from the exsisting and excessive auto traffic, which will someday
    soon come to a standstill.

  10. John permalink
    March 5, 2011 4:16 pm

    Please extend this to Vineland and Millville, these areas are population areas that sorely need this kind of transit. It would be widely used by residents such as my self, and fits in with our normal commuting patterns. Please don’t forget about us!

  11. March 7, 2011 9:48 pm

    As much as I’d like to see mass transit built along the Rt55 corridor this DMU line just does not seem to be the right way to go about it. It was sold by Rowan’s GIS Professor John Hasse as a variant of the NJ-3 alignment featuring more stations and thus providing more intracounty ridership at lower cost than the grade separated PATCO alternative. However, by eliminating the electrification and the compatibility with PATCO the long term utility of the line is significantly reduced.

    IMHO if they’re going to add stations over the PATCO alternative, then it only makes sense to go with an electric LRT. The superior acceleration of an electric LRT would likely allow them to operate one fewer trainset while maintaining the same headway. Over the lifetime of those vehicles the electrification would more than likely pay for itself. Given the marginal increase in cost for a 48 inch platform over the 24 inch platforms the Riverline GTW 2/6s use there is really no reason not to adopt high platforms. And at that point they may as well branch the line off PATCO halfway between Broadway and Ferry Ave and go with a grade level PATCO extension, thereby saving the cost of building through Camden. Going with a 48 inch high floor LRV will allow NJT, PATCO, or whatever contractor they select to operate the line right into Philadelphia, using overhead wire south of Camden, and PATCO’s third rail north of there.


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