Published in the Asbury
Park Press 9/11/03
By JOSEPH PICARD
TOMS RIVER BUREAU
BAY HEAD -- The borough and the state Department of Transportation have finalized their agreement to keep expansion of the Bay Head Rail Yard to a minimum.
"This is a great victory for the residents of Bay Head," said Susan Shore of Osborne Avenue, who served as citizens liaison to the Borough Council on the rail yard issue.
"The residents sticking together, the work of borough officials, the willingness of the DOT to work with us -- all this has combined to prevent the first steps of industrial sprawl on the barrier island," she said.
"It made good business sense to scale back
the Bay Head project," DOT spokesman Michael Horan said. "It also made
good sense to listen to the community's concerns."
Borough and state officials signed the final agreement, which officially ends three years of negotiations.
NJ Transit, a public corporation under the aegis of the DOT, had planned a $16 million improvement project at the rail yard, which is the southern terminus for its North Jersey Coast Line.
The project was to include a fueling facility
that called for the construction of new diesel fuel tanks on concrete pads,
a 950-foot-long inspection track and a 35-foot-high fueling canopy that
would stretch over nine of the 12 tracks in the yard.
The rail yard, built in 1872, is on a 51-acre parcel that includes 33 acres of wetlands. The yard borders Twilight Lake -- a haven for bird watchers and a popular tourist attraction -- and several residential streets with some homes that are as close as 50 feet to the tracks.
Bay Head residents and officials raised environmental and aesthetic objections to the plan. "NJ Transit has not had a good environmental record there," Borough Councilman John Berko said. "It's a sensitive area connected to Barnegat Bay, and their project would have caused the area more harm." The new facility also would have been an eyesore, Berko said.
When, in 2001, the state Department of Environmental Protection granted permits that would allow the NJ Transit project to proceed, the borough filed an appeal in Superior Court.
But in August 2002, NJ Transit decided against the fueling station in Bay Head, opting to go with a single state-of-the-art fueling station, now under construction, at its rail yard in Hoboken. NJ Transit officials said it was more economically sound to have the fueling station there.
When the state backed off the facility at Bay Head, the borough dropped its legal action. The two sides negotiated the rest of the deal that was finalized last week. NJ Transit will still build the 950-foot inspection track, so brakes can be inspected and repaired. But the state also will remediate polluted areas on the site, plant trees, use a lighting system designed not to disturb nearby residents and install equipment that will restart engines so they need not run all night.
"We know NJ Transit provides a valuable service to residents in the area," Berko said. "We did not want to run them out. We just wanted them to understand our concerns and behave like good neighbors. They have."
Joseph Picard: (732) 557-5738 or [email protected]
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