Winter 2016 Issue

Sidebar: New Jersey Offers Grants for Private Freight Improvements

Bill Wittkop
The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway bridge in Ridgefield Park, NJ

Railroad advocates boast the benefits of states that dedicate funding for freight infrastructure and New Jersey is one of several that offers public dollars for such projects.

New Jersey awards the grants to private rail companies – and counties that own smaller stretches of track – to bolster economic development and make freight rail service more widely available to businesses.

The state has allocated more than $85 million though the Rail Freight Assistance Program since 1994. The nine projects sharing $20 million in funding in 2015 include upgrades and repairs to track and bridges and expansions to connect or extend existing freight lines to new customers.

Two of the nine projects are in North Jersey and both benefit The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway Corp., a Class II freight railway that operates more than 500 miles of track in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation awarded $4.3 million to NYS&W Corp. to replace a rail bridge that crosses Overpeck Creek in Ridgefield Park. The project is expected to cost $6.17 million and calls for a complete bridge replacement.

Melanie Boyer, a spokeswoman for NYS&W Corp., said the bridge would be replaced in three major installations and the project would not be possible without the grant.

“The state funding was an integral component to this project,” Boyer said. “It has allowed us to install a new structure, instead of short term rehabilitation and repairs.”

About 25,000 rail cars cross the bridge each year. The bridge was originally build in three spans in the early 1900s and the north and south approaches were rehabilitated in 1985.

“The new structure will have a lifespan of more than 50 years, guaranteeing a continuous, safe and reliable rail system to the benefit of New Jersey,” Boyer said.

NYS&W Corp. was also awarded a $2.28 million grant to replace jointed rail tracks leading to the Marion Yard interchange tracks in Jersey City and North Bergen with continuous welded rail. The $3.62 million project also calls for new ties and ballast, Boyer said.
Continuous welded track is very strong and requires less maintenance than jointed rail. Trains experience a smoother ride on welded track and can travel at higher speeds.

In addition to the two North Jersey projects, the New Jersey Department of Transportation also awarded $13.4 million in grants for projects in South Jersey.

Melissa Hayes is managing editor of InTransition.