Byram officials let neighbors know of freight line concerns

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    BYRAM-Byram officials voiced their concerns to neighbors this week about a proposal to re-activate an abandoned rail line through the township and parts of Sussex County. Township manager Greg Poff told Morris County transportation officials at a meeting of the Republican Club of Morristown that a revival of the Lackawanna Cutoff would send more, longer, diesel-powered freight trains n some carrying New York City garbage n through points in Northwest New Jersey and beyond. "The concern is more from a pollution standpoint," said Poff. "We don't want someone else's garbage running through our backyard. The potential for waste being hauled along the rail line will adversely affect residential neighborhoods." Although the rail was shut down nearly 30 years ago, the New Jersey Transit Authority is interested in making improvements at Port Newark to bring the system online. Poff said that NJ Transit hasn't confirmed nor denied allegations that the line, which cuts through the Forest Lakes, Lake Lackawanna and East Brookwood sections of Byram, would be used to transport waste to landfills in Pennsylvania. Supporters of the $350 million project believe the rail service would benefit local commuters and reduce traffic on county roadways. Lakeland Bus Co. operates the only public transit system through Byram and into New York City. Poff said that a commuter train station would be targeted for Forest Lakes near Andover if the Lackawanna Cutoff were reopened. "It's a big federally funded project," said Poff. "When you look at the operating costs and the low number of riders predicted, though, you start to think there might be something more to this." The Morristown & Erie Railway, headquartered in Morristown, is redeveloping the Rahway Valley and Staten Island Rail Lines under contract to Union County. The Rahway line runs to Summit. Peter Palmer, chairman of the freight committee of the North Jersey Regional Planning Authority and guest speaker at the Republican Club meeting, and other officials, including those from the Morristown & Erie, said no long freight trains or ones hauling garbage will be passing through Morris County. Representatives of the Inman Railroad Committee, which opposes the plan, said when the connection of tracks between Cranford and Summit is completed, NJ Transit's Morris & Essex Line, which runs through the center of Morris County before joining with the Lackawanna Cutoff, will be only a short jump away. Poff said a township council resolution opposing the rail line renovation has done little to stop the proposed state project. "It's important for our neighbors in Morris County to know Byram's position and to give them additional information so that they can make a decision for themselves." he said.