June 2010

Proposed New Jersey Light Rail Expansion Moves Forward

by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) and Port Authority Transit Corp. (PATCO), a subsidiary of the DRPA, in close cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), are pursuing new transit service between Glassboro and Camden in Southern New Jersey.

The Glassboro-Camden Line (GCL) Light Rail Project, which is a proposed expansion of transit service in the area, would traverse the communities within the corridor from Glassboro to Camden. The new line would provide passenger rail service along the existing rail line using light rail technology similar to the New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) River Line. Light rail along this corridor was selected as the Recommended Alternative based on the two-year Alternatives Analysis funded by NJDOT and completed by DRPA/PATCO in 2009.

"The purpose of this project is to improve transit service along the Glassboro-to-Camden corridor in southern New Jersey, with a focus on increasing mobility and improving links between the established communities and activity ­centers," explains Richard Amodei, sr. vice president and chief strategic growth officer at STV Incorporated, which is serving as the lead of a multi-firm team for the project.

The new line would primarily run along Consolidated Rail Corp.'s (Conrail) freight alignment, which is roughly parallel to Woodbury-Glassboro Road and NJ Route 45. The northern segment in Camden would follow a new right-of-way adjacent to I-676 before entering an in-street alignment to reach Walter Rand Transportation Center, where riders could transfer to the PATCO Speedline and the NJ Transit River Line, Amodei adds.

The Light Rail Alternative would use diesel-powered light rail vehicles operating on new dedicated tracks and/or sharing portions of Conrail track with temporal separation. Approximately 14 new stations would be located along the alignment.

Why light rail?

The Glassboro-to-Camden corridor is characterized by older, densely populated communities that developed along the rail line, as well as major employment and activity centers including universities, medical centers and other institutions, Amodei explains. He adds, however, that connections between these activity centers are not efficient, and travel within the corridor is difficult for the people who access them.

Currently, NJ Transit provides bus service throughout the corridor, which travels on existing roads and highways that are subject to congestion, with no rapid transit option that can get travelers into Camden or downtown Philadelphia and beyond. The GCL would provide passenger rail service along an existing underutilized transportation corridor.

"Right now the area relies on the PATCO Speedline system, which is to the east of the study area core and that's the only rapid transit service available to the residents of southern New Jersey," says Amodei. "[A light rail line] would serve as an extension of rapid transit into an area just southwest of the PATCO system where there are high levels of population that wouldn't use the existing service. It's really an untapped market to a great extent."

With the communities that surround the proposed alignment serving as some of the earliest examples of transit oriented development (TOD), GCL would enhance those TOD areas, while also re-solidifying the urban fabric, Amodei says.

"The recommended alignment conforms to policies promoted by New Jersey's Office of Smart Growth to help prevent development 'sprawl' into open space and agricultural land, requiring new supporting infrastructure," he adds.


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