Published in the Asbury Park Press 12/07/00
By MICHAEL AMSEL
TOMS RIVER BUREAU
BAY HEAD -- NJ Transit officials told residents yesterday there would be no adverse environmental effects from a proposed upgrade of the borough's rail yard.
But some residents remained skeptical after a four-hour open house hosted by NJ Transit at borough hall.
"This is just a big whitewash," Joanne Pehlivanian said. "I have lived here for 20 years and they have not been good neighbors. There are diesel fumes, oil spills, all kinds of debris at that yard. What they say is not what they are going to do."
However, Steve Jurow, senior director of environmental services for NJ Transit, said, "There will be less diesel emissions because all seven diesels with be shut off at night from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. unless the temperature is below 30 degrees.
Jurow said that will also greatly reduce noise.
"They have already caused major discomfort here. We don't need this new project," said Herb Haas, who has served on the borough Environmental Commission for 11 years. "They are just giving excessive public relations so they can overwhelm the people with how good this is going to be. They are just giving us what they want us to hear."
NJ Transit is seeking approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the project at the approximately 5,000-square-foot train yard, just to the northwest of Twilight Lake. It is at the southern end of the North Jersey Coast Line, which provides passenger rail service to Manhattan.
The Bay Head facility has been in existence for nearly a century and is extremely outdated, said Ken Miller, an NJ Transit spokesman. A number of the existing structures at the site will be replaced or upgraded, Miller said. Some of the proposed changes include building a 35-foot-high canopy and a 950-foot-long pedestal track and installing new directional yard lighting.
Additionally, a new power distribution system will be provided at each of the nine tracks to allow the locomotives to shut off their auxiliary engines, thus minimizing noise, emissions, vibrations and fuel consumption, Miller said.
"The bottom line is when all the improvements have been installed this will be a better facility," Miller said. "We are holding this (open house) to make sure community members know exactly what we are doing. I feel this has been a very good give-and-take session. It has helped clarify a lot of misunderstandings about this project."
Jurow said there will be no disturbance of the wetlands and less noise when the project is completed. Construction of the project is expected to take 18 months, Jurow said.
"The building where the compressor is located is going to be made sound-proof," said Nick Valente, a supervisor in the environmental services unit. "That will reduce the noise, as well."
Haas, standing nearby, shook his head as Valente spoke.
"I have heard all this stuff about reducing the noise for years," Haas said. "It's nothing but a sham. We are a small residential community and it's a damn shame this is being done. There are other places they can build this, like Hoboken and Long Branch. Build extensions there. Why do they have to come here with this project?"
Pehlivanian remained unconvinced.
"This is so upsetting," she said. "These people never do what they say they are going to do. They say they are going to close down the trains at 4 p.m. on Sundays. What a joke. You can go by there six o'clock every Sunday and still hear all the noises. They repair things all through the night."
Miller said funding still has to be lined up for the $16 million project, which is expected to get under way in one year. He said the project will help NJ Transit comply with new Federal Railroad Administration requirements.
"Right now, no money has been secured," Miller said. "We will be looking to secure funds from the New Jersey State Transportation Trust Fund and the Federal Transit Administration."
Michael Amsel (732) 557-5733 or [email protected]
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