People strongly opposed to the Glassboro Camden Line (GCL) dominated the public portion of the Mantua committee’s Feb. 13 meeting with recurring concerns that include its potential environmental impact and noise pollution.
It isn’t the first protest against the 18-mile light-rail train project, first introduced in 1996 and now in the preliminary design phase. Construction has yet to begin on the line, which will run from Glassboro to Camden with Mantua as one of its stops.
“I am talking about hazardous material,” said resident Tony Alveario at the meeting. “Pollution that is contained in the stone balance of the existing train tracks will have to be removed and replaced to accommodate the two rails of the GCL.”
The GCL project is the purview of the Camden-based Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), the bi-state regional transportation agency that oversees four area bridges.
“The project has been studied exhaustively for more than a decade, with both the benefits and challenges clearly identified,” says the DRPA on its website. “It is now time to deliver the promise of that hard work for the benefit of the people of Gloucester and Camden counties and all southern New Jersey.”
But opposing residents at the meeting and from nearby communities – including Woodbury – want local governments like Mantua to release resolutions against the project or put the issue on election ballots. The Facebook group Say No to GCL has amassed about 2,800 members.
But the Mantua committee has said multiple times over the past several months that creating a resolution will not affect whether the project moves forward. The committee did pass a resolution against the GCL in 1996 but reversed itself in 2009.
“I’ve said over and over that this is not a Mantua issue, not a Mantua Township matter, per say, as far as where it is originating from,” said Mayor Robert Zimmerman. “There are concerns that residents have that you and your crew (Say No to GCL) have expressed,” he added, referring to one meeting speaker, Charles Hughes.
“With regards to the ballot question, for us, as a committee, we like to see what the people want,” Zimmerman noted. “You (Hughes) had suggested at one of those meetings to get signatures to get a question on the ballot. I would encourage you to do that. That way, we’ll know if the residents here in Mantua even want it on the ballot.”
Despite the suggestion, emphatic critics of the GCL upheld their opposition during the committee meeting.
“Now we’re told that the public, the public, has to vote,” said Mantua resident Anna Janda. “That we have to go around, and we have to get petitions. Why do we have to do that when no one else did when you reversed it? You did not ask for public opinion then.
“We’re going round and round and round and round,” she added. “We’ve been told over and over again that you cannot do anything about this. We know you’re frustrated, and we’re just as equally frustrated. We’re told now that the only thing that we can do is to go out and get petition signatures. But here’s the thing: It’s going to be nonbinding.”
Janda then suggested that committee members should be replaced.
“What we need to do is, we’re going to need to make changes to the board,” she said. “We’re gonna have to do a petition to remove people from office.”
The next Mantua committee meeting will take place on Monday, March 13, at 6 p.m.