Freeholders Join Move to 'Freeze' Rail Lines Along
Newton--Even before the final train was scheduled to
pull out of Newton last night (Wednesday) the hue and cry to save the
railroad for the future industrial, recreational and agricultural growth
of Sussex County was heard in Trenton and Washington.
The announcement by the Erie Lackawanna Railroad that
it was taking immediate advantage of a recent Interstate Commerce Commission
ruling permitting it to abandon all freight and passenger service north
from Andover Junction to Branchville, the Sussex County Board of Freeholders,
the Town of Newton and Mayor H. Grant Leonard of Andover Township planned
action aimed at "freezing" removal of the tracks in new efforts to retain
Officials and individuals, both commuters and users
of freight facilities of the railroad, charged that the action of the
ICC and the Erie Lackawanna Railroad in abandoning service at a time
when Sussex County was on the brink of a gigantic population, economic
and industrial explosion showed a "complete lack of foresight" on the
part of the federal agency and the railroad.
The action by the Sussex County Board of Freeholders
was spearheaded by freeholder Francis Lockburner who brought the matter
top the attention of the freeholders at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
Lockburner, who had ridden a special excursion on the
last regularly scheduled run from Hoboken to Branchville on Saturday,
called on the freeholders to "find a way to keep the line going."
"Must Keep Service"
"We must take whatever action we can to help continue
this vital service. We must get on the record to keep the tracks down
so that the service, if necessary, can be utilized by others," Lockburner
Lockburner charged both the railroad and the ICC with
'lack of foresight" in allowing the lines to be abandoned "at a time
when a spur line to the site of the proposed Delaware Water Gap National
Recreation Area and the Tocks Island Dam would provide a boom both for
the railroad and the county."
Lockburner said that Stroudsburg Pa., "could well become
the rail center to a vacationland expected to be visited by 10,000,000
persons a year by this action."
Freeholder-Director Denton J. Quick agreed with Lockburner's
statements. Quick reviewed the actions of Sussex County and the Town
of Newton in attempts to prevent the ICC from allowing the Erie Lackawanna
application for abandonment.
"I think we should reiterate our stand to 'freeze'
the rail lines as they are and follow up on this with appeals to Gov.
Richard J. Hughes, our federal representatives, U.S. Senators Harrison
Williams and Clifford Case, to Congressmen Frank E. Thompson and William
B. Widnall, to State Sen. Milton Woolfenden and Assemblyman Douglas
Rutherfurd and and to officials of the state highway department.
"We feel that the pride of New Jersey should be maintained.
There should be available rail transportation to the Tocks Island Area
where 10,000,000 persons will flock ever year. The retention of rail
service is also vital to the agricultural and industrial interests of
Freight Use Increasing
Quick mentioned specifically the freight use of the
railroad by the American Urethane Company. Lockburner also added that
many large cattlemen and grain dealers rely on bulk freight deliveries
for their stock.
Mayor Leonard, appraised of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad
intention to abandon all service, issued a statement in which he labeled
the action "deplorable."
"We are endeavoring to get good, clean industry into
Sussex County to offset high property and school taxes. We can't do
this if the state and federal agencies permit abandonment of our freight
and commuter lifeline.
"One of the greatest selling points to the investors
who purchased the Andover Industrial Tract on the Stickle Pond Road
was the railroad siding lines available for future industrial sites.
"In the past two years several large companies have
been interested in the area for erection of huge warehouses which would
provide good sound ratables. They wanted this area because it was near
their big city markets. But without a railroad, I doubt if they will
continue to be interested," Leonard said.
On Monday night, the Newton Town Council released the
text of a letter it had sent to Gov. Richard J. Hughes urging the governor
to "consider the rail needs of Sussex County, presently, and in the
future, in conjunction with your plan to rehabilitate commuter lines
with state and federal monies."
The letter, signed by Mayor Edward L. Hicok, added
that "we hope some of these funds may be allocated to the rehabilitation
and maintenance of all rail service into Newton."
Hicok's letter said that the Town of Newton "is vitally
interested your plan to use federal and state monies to rehabilitate
commuter rail lines in New Jersey." The letter continued:
"Recently, the Interstate Commerce Commission approved
the abandonment of all rail service, north of Andover Junction. Previously,
the Public Utilities Commission approved the abandonment of passenger
service into Newton.
"As the county seat of Sussex County and the gateway
to the proposed Delaware water Gap National recreation Area we believe
rail service (both passenger and freight) should be maintained into
Newton. Freight service has been increasing on this section of the Erie
Lackawanna as industrial and commercial growth has taken place here.
WE believe the railroad has completely overlooked the present and future
freight demand into Newton.
"Since our highways are now heavily burdened and will
be overloaded as more automobiles are produced and purchased, we believe
rail service in this area is a necessity. Over 10 million visitors annually
are expected to visit the new National Recreation Area. Many of these
visitors, coming from New York City and environs, will not have automobiles.
"If nothing more constructive can be accomplished,
we believe the tracks and right-of-way should be retained for use in
the future. Highways are not being improved rapidly enough in this area
to meet future needs. mass transportation, by rail, if not needed now,
will be a necessity in a few years."