What will be the GCL’s effect on the environment?

Concerns include damage to plants and nearby wildlife

Among the controversies being discussed in Mantua and Gloucester County regarding the proposed Glassboro Camden Line (GCL) is the light rail train’s potential impact on the environment.

“A 2010 U.S. Department of Transportation study reports that light-rail systems produce 62 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile than an average single-occupancy vehicle,” according to the Say Yes to GCL website that provides a link to the study.

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The study showed light rail produced fewer CO2 emissions than privately owned cars and bus transportation. The 18-mile GCL would be an alternative to emissions from vehicles in heavy traffic on highways like I-295. 

Other concerns about the rail line are the loss of natural life and species that might result from its construction and chemicals that could seep into nearby bodies of water. Remnants of past trains are still spotted in Mantua, Wenonah and Woodbury Heights, but only some of their tracks could be repurposed for the GCL.

“We don’t know what’s in that soil and in those track beds,” said Joseph Hetzel, a former member and chairman of Mantua’s environmental commission. “When they start testing, we’ll have a better idea.” 

“It might be nothing, but I’m sure that there’s something in there,” he added. “Now, I’m not saying that just because they dig it up, that every lake and stream is going to be polluted. But is there a possibility that something could happen? “There’s always a possibility.”

The GCL could also negatively impact plants and animals in the area. One of two shingle oak trees in the state is in the path of the proposed line, but an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released in February of 2021 did not cite harmful effects. 

To be sure though, the EIS study did show 34 potential sites that would require further investigation prior to the GCL’s construction in order to confirm contamination would not be an issue.

“Nothing about this train makes sense,” said Hetzel.

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