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New Jersey Herald - November 4, 1965 issue

Editorial: A Promising Future

Emphasis was placed on the potential future role of the railroad in the growth and development of Sussex County by witnesses who testified last week at a hearing before the Interstate Commerce Commission in Newark. The hearing was called to consider the application of Erie Lackawanna Railroad to discontinue all service north of Andover Junction.

Passenger service on the Sussex County Branch of the railroad has been repeatedly curtailed over the years until now there is but one train out and one into the county each day. Freight service to the county has continued, but suffered serious depletion with the closing of creameries in Branchville and Ross' Corner.

Now the railroad says its operations on the Sussex Branch have reached the point where it is no longer profitable to continue service of any kind beyond Andover Junction.

Both the Town of Newton and the County of Sussex officially opposed the discontinuance application at the hearing, and they were joined by at least two businesses that depend on rail shipments to keep them in a competitive position.

Town and county officials not only took the position that the rail line is needed now, but will be needed more as Sussex County grows. One of the points made by County Planning Director Jules Marron was the part the railroads could play in conjunction with the development of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on the Tocks Island Reservoir along the western boundary of Sussex County. The significant fact here is that the Sussex County Branch of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad will be the only rail line terminating near the national recreation area in Sussex County.

Upwards of 13,000 acres in the Walpack area will be developed as the largest recreational section on the New Jersey side of the 37-mile-long reservoir. Here there will be swimming, boating, camping, picnicking and hiking, all those things which will attract folks from the city in droves.

The railhead at Branchville is about 10 miles from the planned recreational area; Newton is about 17 miles. Those who are concerned about this huge influx of visitors see the railroad as a form of transportation that could relieve highway traffic when the recreation area opens. If the railroad were to provide fast, adequate service with improved equipment, it could undoubtedly attract hundreds--if not thousands--who would be happy to avoid highway traffic snarls and perils. Bus connections from Branchville or Newton would bridge the transportation gap between the railroad and the park.

At the same time such a rail operation would also provide transportation for Sussex County residents to the metropolitan area on a more frequent and modern basis, and thus become more attractive. Also, the railroad would still be here to serve the inevitable industrial growth of the county.

It would seem, then, that with this future potentiality for increased business, now is not the time for the railroad to be pulling out. Of course, this potentiality could not be developed unless the railroad company is willing to do its part to attract and hold passenger and freight business. For the sake of the future of Sussex County, the application to discontinue service should be denied.