Area residents to take a closer look at rail project

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:14

    Byram-The Byram Council is encouraging all residents to a meeting to discuss a railroad set to run through the township sometime in 2006. The Lackawanna Cut-Off Project aims to revive a once existing railway link between Lake Hopatcong and the Delaware Water Gap. The New Jersey Transit Corporation will hold an "open house" on June 29 at the Adam Todd Banquet Caterers on Route 206 at Cranberry Lake between the hours of 3 and 8 p.m. to share preliminary results of the planning and environmental analyses for the project. "If the railroad passes, every single person in this town will be affected in some way," said Councilman Earl Riley at Monday night's council meeting. "I encourage everyone to come out." The proposed railway revival has been a response to increasing traffic on Route 80. Byram Mayor Eskil Danielson is calling the open house a "public information session," in which questions will be answered by railroad officials. However, not everyone agrees with that opinion. According to Byram Council Member Donna Griff, the meeting forum will provide a disservice to those in attendance because it will not be an open debate. She said that questions will be written down, and there will no way of telling what NJ Transit will or will not answer. "Put on your Choo-choo Charlie hats and let's go," said Griff mocking the NJ transit idea. She believes the open house will be used to spread propaganda to support the building of the railway. Instead she suggested, "Give us a public forum and let's debate it." According to Griff, the people will not get to hear about the possibility that the trains may be used to transport trash, or about the increasing number of homes that could be built in the township with the rezoning the railroad could create. Councilman Lou Esposito also expressed disappointment with the method in which the meeting will be governed and referred to the open house as "the cards we've been dealt." He added that at a prior meeting, approximately 300 local residents attended, and that the large majority of those in attendance were opposed to railway construction. According to the councilman, the facts released by NJ transit made it appear that the railroad had overwhelming support. Despite their disappointment with the format of the meeting, both Esposito and Griff encourage all residents to attend. Griff is the only member of the council who will not attend because she has a previous engagement. For his part, Riley stated that he is looking forward to the meeting, adding that many people have ideas that are both for and against the railroad, and that there is no way of telling how people really feel unless they show up at the meeting. "We have an opportunity here … we can hear what the concerns are," said Riley. "We said that these are the cards we were dealt, let's take the deck and do something with it."