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Rail line spurs backlash as it reflects history

Woodbury Heights’ mayor and council show staunch opposition

A map showcasing the proposed Glassboro-Camden Line in blue has been considered for decades, with divisive opinions on its potential development. Photo courtesy of GCL

Not long after a greener option was suggested for the proposed Glassboro-Camden Line (GCL), the project still faces backlash.

Given that similar ideas have failed in the past, the question remains: Is the GCL also setting itself up for failure?

For the last century, a successful rail service in the area has been a trial-and-error learning experience. According to the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers Director Bill Ritzler, an electric passenger train service between Camden and Millville was implemented in 1909. And while it replaced diesel-powered trains in 1949, the service ended by 1970.

Many years later, the Camden and Millville line is reflected in the GCL proposal.

Studies were conducted for a Burlington-Gloucester train line in the early ‘90s, but in 1996, local and regional officials in Gloucester County expressed their opposition to the idea, so NJ Transit system shied away from the county, but not for long.

“There has been a fairly continuous process of study since the early 1990s,” Ritzler said. “Despite the redirection of funds to the RiverLine in 1996, passenger rail service in the GCL corridor was again evaluated in the late 1990s as an alternative to the project that led to the widening of Route 42 to four lanes between Route 55 and I-295.”

As the RiverLine opened services between Camden and Trenton in 2004, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) began to brainstorm the expansion of public transit in Gloucester County. Since then, studies have been rolled out by the DRPA to support the line, but not without opposition.

“Since 2009, I’ve heard residents give many reasons for not wanting hundreds of trains and shuttle buses to criss-cross our towns on a daily basis, taxes being the least of their concerns,” Mantua resident Carol Rhodes said. “Greed and incompetence don’t spell success.”

Most recently, Woodbury Heights’ Mayor William Packer and council passed a resolution establishing their opposition to the GCL’s completion, a major conflict considering the service would go through that municipality.

“Although the GCL may be intended to positively impact the region as a whole, the borough of Woodbury Heights stands to be negatively impacted by the condemnation of real property and/or still yet unknown elements of the planning and construction,” the resolution states.

The GCL’s future has not been determined. While it will take years for the line to develop, backlash from local officials and residents is expected only to grow.

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