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
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.