Public informed, still skeptical of news from open forum held at Township complex
Putting an end to speculation and soothing irritation on behalf of Cherry Hill Township residents, N.J. Transit announced the Atlantic City Rail Line — which has not operated since last September — will return to service by the start of Memorial Day weekend.
The announcement was made by NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett and state Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti at an open public forum hosted by the transit corporation at Carman Tilelli Community Center on Feb. 27.
“Considering the heat (we’re getting) and the aggravation that people have been suffering, it would be a good idea to nail that down. I was in the governor’s office today and showed them a range of options and difficulties with different issues and what would be a good, safe date to begin. With summer coming up, we will be resuming service on Friday, May 24,” said Corbett in his opening remarks.
N.J. Transit reportedly shut down service to Atlantic City last fall as the agency attempted to meet a Dec. 31 federal deadline to complete the first phase of installing a safety system.
Corbett said NJ Transit would be coming out with a schedule for the line “shortly” but could not say how soon service would return to its previous standard before the shutdown, because NJT was in the process of working with casinos to address how best to serve their workers’ needs based on shift scheduling, for more even spacing of trains and more predictable running times.
“Labor has to get their lines. They are unionized. And so we don’t pay for Atlantic City by itself, or Princeton, it’s the whole system. We plan our service for all of New Jersey transit rail, and I know that isn’t convenient to everyone, but it is the only way we can effectively make certain we’re addressing all the lines,” said Gutierrez-Scaccetti when asked if partial service on the rail line could be restored before May 24.
When asked by a skeptical audience member how the public could trust that definitive date, Gutierrez-Scaccetti said bluntly: “Because if we don’t, Kevin and I will be looking for work somewhere else. We made a commitment to the governor that (May 24) is the latest date and we are trying very hard to make sure that line is up for the summer. I could say to you 30 days, and that would be a lie, that would be a broken promise. Kevin and I do have a commitment and we take pride in our work and our integrity. We would never give you a date that we didn’t think we could meet.”
Riders who patronized the AC line have been forced to take buses since its closure.
Cherry Hill Township Mayor Chuck Cahn released a statement regarding the forum, which read: “When the Atlantic City line ceased operations back in September, our reaction here in the township was surprise and disappointment. Many of our residents use that line on a daily basis to travel to and from Atlantic City and Philadelphia, and visitors use the line to come into Cherry Hill. From a planning perspective, we have been encouraging our residents and visitors to utilize non-car based modes of transportation, and have been trying to find creative ways to offer these options throughout town.
“We are happy to assist NJ Transit in whatever way we can to see that this important mode of transportation is available to our region’s residents.”