TRENTON – The Senate Transportation Committee approved a resolution today sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono that would create the “Smart Freight Railroad Study Commission” to study the impact of additional short-line freight railroads in northern New Jersey and put a moritorium on new freight traffic on the Lehigh Valley Railroad short-line freight track from Edison to Bound Brook until the Commission has completed its report.
“An increase in freight rail traffic on these rail lines is going to have a discernable impact on the quality of life in the neighborhoods the pass through,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Before the State spends any money to increase the capacity and use of these rail lines, we need to conduct a comprehensive study of the potential impact additional trains will have on the residents of these communities. The consequences may not justify the benefits in the end.”
Senator Buono’s resolution, SJR-49, would outline the formation of the Smart Freight Railroad Study Commission (Commission) to study the need for reactivation and construction of short-line freight railroads in northern New Jersey and whether the economic benefits would justify the cost to the State and the environmental, safety, and quality of life impacts it would have on the affected communities. The Commission would submit a report no later than six months after the Commission organizes to the Governor, President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the General Assembly.
The bill would also prohibit the Department of Transportation (DOT) from entering into any new contracts for the purposes of rehabilitation or construction of railroads, tracks, structures, or rights-of-way for the reestablishment or establishment of short-line freight rail services with respect to the 10.5 mile section of the Lehigh Valley Railroad short-line freight track extending from the Township of Edison in Middlesex County to the Borough of Bound Brook in Somerset County until the Commission has completed its report.
“Congestion and gridlock is already a great concern at many of the locations where the freight lines cross local roads. Additional rail traffic would only exacerbate the problem,” explained Senator Buono. “The potential consequences extend beyond traffic concerns – they include worries that ambulances and fire engines would be blocked from reaching the scene of an accident and fears that noise pollution from horns will greatly increase. These are legitimate concerns that need to be thoroughly studied and addressed before allowing any further development.”
The bill passed by a vote of 3-1 and now goes to the full Senate for their consideration