Rail line backers: West route best

Published in the Asbury Park Press 12/10/02
Monmouth County officials, commuters favor Western rail route

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP -- Monmouth County officials and prospective passengers yesterday voiced enthusiasm for building a commuter rail line from Lakehurst to South Brunswick, during the last of three public hearings on the proposed Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex line.

The numerous proponents said the Lakehurst-South Brunswick route would streamline commutes to New York, Newark and other locations for thousands of workers and ease rush-hour congestion on the roads, especially Route 9.

Public hearings were held in Middlesex and Ocean counties last week. The three meetings were conducted to prepare the Draft Environmental Impact Statement portion of NJ Transit's effort to fund and build the line, estimated to cost $400 million.

The study is considering three rail routes, but the overwhelming favorite of speakers yesterday was a 40.1-mile line between Lakehurst and South Brunswick's Monmouth Junction, where trains would travel onto the Northeast Corridor Line to Newark. Passengers traveling to New York would have to transfer to another NJ Transit train.

During the all-afternoon and evening hearing at the Freehold Gardens Hotel, Monmouth County Freeholder Theodore J. Narozanick set the tone early, telling an audience of about 20 people that "the Lakehurst-Monmouth Junction rail line is needed as soon as possible."

"Traffic congestion and delays along the Route 9 corridor that transverses all three counties (are) steadily increasing," said Narozanick, chairman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. He said his fellow freeholders strongly support the westerly route.   "This region will experience dramatic economic benefits from the rail line. Currently, the existing North Jersey Coast rail line is viewed as an asset by the 28 municipalities it serves," Narozanick said.

Not all those who attended shared Narozanick's enthusiasm.   Tom Lawlor of Howell said the line probably would provide needed transportation for the elderly.  "But I do have some concerns," Lawlor said. "I'm third generation in this area. Do we want the area to change dramatically? You will have a different type of community because the access of trains will open the area up. You might have a New York-type, fast-paced atmosphere."

Freehold Township Mayor Eugene Golub read from a resolution approved by the Township Committee in 1996 that supports the rail line and pledged whatever help is needed from his town.

The Middlesex County freeholder board and officials representing the towns of Monroe, Jamesburg and South Brunswick said last week that they prefer the two other options, routes that run either to Red Bank or Matawan. Those routes would join the North Jersey Coast Line.

Speakers yesterday said that of the choices, only the Lakehurst-South Brunswick line would not disrupt recreational trails that have been established on unused railroad rights of way, and would go into areas not served by NJ Transit trains.

The Lakehurst-to-South Brunswick line would run through Manchester, Dover Township, Jackson, Lakewood, Farmingdale and Howell, then west via the former Pennsylvania Railroad through Freehold Township, Freehold, Manalapan, Englishtown, Monroe and Jamesburg to the Northeast Corridor Line at Monmouth Junction.

The Lakehurst-to-Matawan route would travel through Manchester, Dover Township, Jackson, Lakewood, Howell, Freehold Township, Freehold, Manalapan and Marlboro.

The Lakehurst--to--Red Bank alternate would travel through Manchester, Dover Township, Jackson, Lakewood, Farmingdale, Howell, Wall, Colts Neck, Tinton Falls, Eatontown and Shrewsbury.

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