**these are my personal notes from last night’s meeting - while they are decent, I am only human and typed as fast as I could while participating and watching the zoom. The official minutes will be better, but for now, this could help catch you up if you missed the meeting. See my prior post with the PowerPoint.**
Amy Rudley – introduction
Thank you, Mayor, The GCL leadership team is here tonight to give us an update regarding their project status and developments.
We have with us tonight:
John Hanson, CEO
Michael Howard, Acting Manager Construction & Maintenance
John Manzoni, STV Project Manager
Michael Venuto, Chief Engineer
Mike Williams, Manager of Corporate Communications
Christina Maroni, Director of Strategic Initiatives
William Shanahan, DRPA Governmental Relations
Possibly, William Brooks, STV Project Director, though I do not see him.
(Brooks - indicated he is here)
In advance of our meeting tonight, I have shared with the GCL team the survey results of our Pitman residents. We had almost 600 responses and before I distributed it to them, I removed the name, address, and e-mail address fields for the privacy of our residents. I asked that they please address the Pitman unique concerns in their presentation as much as possible.
They will not be staying on for our 8:00 meeting, but if we run short on time and members of the public leave public comment during the 8:00 meeting, the GCL representatives will review the minutes and incorporate responses to any questions in their future presentations.
Thank you for coming to speak with us tonight and for your transparency to date. I turn it over to you for your presentation.
-Introduction by member of GCL team: Thank you for having us. STV was involved in the EIS. They are nationally recognized experts.
Turn it over to chief engineer – Michael Venuto.
Michael Venuto: Thank you very much for the invitation to speak tonight. Amy, thank you for working with us over the last couple weeks to get us prepared for tonight. John Manzoni is going to run through the PowerPoint.
John Manzoni: I’m going to go through the project and give you an overview. I’ll cover the concerns through the survey as best as we can with the time we are allotted, if anything comes up in the 8:00 hour and we are not here, please feel free to send them along and we will address them as soon as we can.
18 mile line from Glassboro to Camden. 14 proposed stations. 16,000 are anticipated to ride – most from 1 NJ town to another.
(Referring to PowerPoint)
Cross-section of what the GCL will look like in the Northern Half – from Woodbury to Camden. We have to share that area with the existing freight surface, 25 foot track centers between Conrail and the passenger service - Conrail wanted to leave room for themselves - GCL has a passing spot in Westville to maintain a 15 minute headway.
Woodbury to Glassboro – two tracks. The upper cross-section will be through Woodbury and Woodbury Heights. Below Woodbury Heights – they would share from 9 p.m. – 12 a.m. and only Conrail after midnight.
Operating Characteristics: Vehicles are similar to the Riverline (but those cars are a little bit older now. Styles are new, like car models change. Low floored, self-propelled, diesel electric). Low floored is important for ADA access. Average speed is about 30. It won’t reach 30 MPH in Pitman because of stopping at station. Two cars total of about 80 feet of length (same length as two-car Riverline system). Every 15 minutes during peak; off peak, 30 minute “headway” late at night.
Station platform description – Pitman will have side platform option. This is the most minimal use of land. Center platform is in the Northern towns. They tried to avoid center platform because of the land it requires.
(Referring to PowerPoint)
This photo is one in Texas. The bottom is the Riverline. We will have 18 vehicles. Two locations for vehicle maintenance. Glassboro is larger, more heavy maintenance.
Woodbury heights is more of a car wash and storage.
We followed State of NJ EO [Executive Order] 215 for Environmental Process. Basically mimics the FTA “_____” (unsure of word – sounds like knee-fer) process. Basically we prepared, we looked at everything from trees, plant, animals, to historical properties and parks. We followed a prescriptive outline and worked with NJDEP to come up with potential impacts. With every impact that we identified we basically have to mitigate, avoid, or minimize.
Acquisitions and displacement – 58 Commerce. 5 sliver where we will need some pieces of property for landscape purposes. They might go away as the design continues – we wanted to maximize possible impacts on the EIS to show worse case. They might minimize, they won’t grow.
Noise and vibration come up a lot. 50 properties that will be potentially impacted. We are rebuilding the track to avoid vibration. There are other engineering solutions that we will be using to minimize the noise and vibrations.
We will include all the infrastructure necessary for Pitman to apply for the Federal Railroad Administration. The equipment will be 4 point gates – two gates across the entire roadway. Even gates on the sidewalk.
We do impact some of that parking within the right of way on West Jersey Avenue. There are some engineering solutions possible to minimize that.
A lot of the concerns is the frequency of the train. It is comparable to a typical traffic light cycle – 90 seconds. EMS can radio ahead to have the train stop to avoid the ambulance, fire, PD from having to stop. The gate will be across the sidewalk as well.
This is a walk-up station. There is a large park-and-ride on the Mantua and Pitman border across from the Sony site. This should capture everyone wishing to drive to the station and take the train. We have always envisioned Pitman as a walk-up station.
Lastly, a final EIS was released on 2/17/21 it is in your library and your municipal building for access. It contains all public comment from the public hearings. We grouped comments in topics. If one comment had three topics in it, we put them in a grouping.
Now we are doing ongoing project outreach meetings. There is also a media campaign that we are doing.
Everyone knows that there are the FB pages. There is some information on the web that is not necessarily true. We are giving the most up-to-date information that we can to give information regarding the project and your town.
The DRPA will solicit proposals from engineering firms for alignment design. And will continue to work with all of the towns up and down – to minimize the impacts.
Councilwoman Amy Rudley Question:
For the quiet areas you have described, will the mechanisms themselves make noise? Currently, our gate near Laurel Avenue has a ringing noise. Even that impacts the neighbors in that area. We have many homes very close to the tracks. If we are able to get obtain a quiet zone designation, will the gates themselves chime or ring?
Answer: NJ Department of Transportation has certain requirements. The gates will ding – when they come down. We will provide support and engineering. You will not need a consultant or to incur that cost.
Mayor Michael Razze Question: – Should it be us or the County to apply for quiet zones, because our railroad crossings are all County roads.
Answer: You could work together, but the County would have to apply.
Councilman Weng: Is there a time of night when the horns would not be used? Would the horns be used during the testing period?
Answer:They have to blow their horns at every fixed object. Riverline switched from a horn to a ringing bell. The Riverline uses the bell chime instead of the horn to cut down on the noise in the neighborhood. We would have to apply for the FRA for the ringing bells instead of the horns.
Councilman Weng: Vibration is a concern. Can you talk a little bit more about the engineering solutions that you have?
Answer:Certain way of adhering the tracks. Some plantings and trees. They have gone as far as to replace some people’s windows
Councilman Weng: How did you get to the ridership model number for the number by 2040? Stops Model.
Answer:This is what the Federal Transit Administration puts out. Your existing network of transit opportunities. It looks at origin and destination pairs. It estimates a certain percentage of people who will shift from their auto to the train.
Councilman Weng: Does that number factor in any changes that have occurred as a result of the pandemic? You hear a lot about how a lot of industries are no longer going back into the offices.
Answer:That number was developed pre-COVID. As the project advances, we will have to revisit that. No doubt that the transit world is going to change due to COVID. Some will go virtual, but there are others that are true brick and mortar businesses that will never go virtual. It will be at least another 6 years. By that point, things will be back to normal. Manhattan lost a lot of residents (400,000w hen COVID hit), but just this week they said the rental market is hot again. So just as many moved out are moving back in. It is kind of hard to predict, but most studies are saying that things are going to go back to normal.
John Hanson, CEO – the other side of that is that people who live within public transit areas, have greater access to jobs within a 30 minute area. We are going to be dealing with displaced workers who are not able to work remotely. To the extent that there are those of us who are able to work remotely, there are also those whose skills are not transferable to a virtual world.
Councilman Weng: You mentioned 6 years. This project has been talked about for a while. I’m curious is there a reasonable range that you can give us the best case scenario where it will be taking passengers.
Answer: Mike Venuto - two process selections, followed up by RFP. That selection process in itself takes about 6 months. We also have the entire preliminary engineering. 2-3 years. Then the competitive selective process for the --- 6 months, then another 2-3 years. I think it would be more than 6 once we do all the steps of getting all the contracts.
John Hanson – another thing is that it has been kicking around for a long time. Part of the delay has been trying to arrange for funding. It is not that common to see this level of investment into Southern NJ. The opportunity is here now. We have $200 million committed now with more opportunity. This is an opportunity for investment in Southern NJ. 6-8 years is fair.
Mike Venuto – yes. Fair to say. If all goes well, it could be 6.
Councilman Fitzpatrick – Pitman is going to lose 110 parking spaces. How would that be mitigated.
Manzoni – I’ll give you a for instance. We will push out into the right of way a little bit, we will take some of those parking spaces. In the project we looked at giving you some. To keep the same width, we could go parallel versus head-in. Another opportunity is to narrow that roadway and give you back the head-in. Another option is to extend the head-in toward Broadway. You have a drainage issue that we could solve and give you some additional spots. I don’t have time to go through all 110, but we would definitely look at mitigating all 110 spaces if possible.
Michael Howard. If I may, the EIS is the worst-case scenario. The parking number may also come down.
Councilman Fitzpatrick Second parcel on Commerce Avenue
Answer: the draft said two – final should have been reduced to one.
Councilman Fitzpatrick - 95 trains per day. Is that times two or is that trains going back and forth.
Manzoni – that should be trains going back and forth, but I don’t have that number in front of me.
Councilman Fitzpatrick: Will gates be down when the train is parked:
Answer:Gates will not be down when the trains are dwelling at the station.
Councilman Fitzpatrick: The bike plan adjacent in the EIS – is that something that will be built? Or someone considered for the future.
Manzoni – we do not construct any bike trails as part of this. That was one possibility. Page ____. There is a lot of push to include shared areas, but there is not enough width. On the local roadway system, there appears to be space to have a bike line. That is what this was referencing.
If we were able to obtain a quiet zone designation, would we have to reapply or reup each year? Are there fees:
Answer:There is no reup required.
Mayor Michael Razze: what was the estimated ridership of Riverline versus ridership.
Manzoni – I would discourage that comparison. That is a 30 mile line with less dense areas. The only thing that is comparable is the ---
John Hanson – I think you are looking at projected versus achieved. If you give us a chance to take that question back and bring it to the team to find a benchmark for it.
Councilwoman Rudley – How will criminal acts on the trains or to the train be handled? Would our Police Department/Borough incur the costs of increased policing?
Answer: NJ Transit is the owner. DRPA and NJT have police departments. Both do police their trains and their buses. I would expect that for things that happen on the trains, we would have an enforcement mechanism for that. In addition to that, the newer trains, have tremendous communication enhancements and communications abilities. We are finding it much greater success even for people who we need to identify on trains, for a variety of reason, sometimes includes bad behaviors. WE are able to identify them with a lost more ease and more quickly than in the past.
We sometimes rely upon mutual aid from our local municipality.
Mayor Michael Razze: Brief public session. Try not to ask a question that has already been asked. Ask questions rather than use this for public comment, we want to take advantage of the time that we have with this team while they are here with us. Use the raise hand. We will try to get to as many as we can. We will ask for your full name and address for the record.
Megan Robinson, Pitman
I am trying to be supportive of this. I just really believe that having this at grade is not ideal for our town. Is there any mechanism that we can work with the GCL folks to discuss options. The at-grade is a struggle. Are there any other options? Could it go underground or as a raised platform.
Mike Venuto – during the alternative analysis phase. First feasibility, then second alternative analysis. During that phase, we did look into a grade-separated system. That would be more than two times the cost of this. That was not a feasible solution. Ultimately, what came out of this was the at-grade system.
M.R. - I’d like to know that we really beat the bush on every available option. I think if you invest in a community planner for our town. I would ask that we look at some additional considerations if we really are going to move forward.
Mike Venuto – the alternative analysis is on the website.
Megan Robinson - It does not give me the cost options.
Bill Ritzler, Pitman
To kind of build on the last comment to anyone who wants to address it. If I understand the process correctly, there is not really a significant amount of room for change to the project as it is presented in the EIS.
B.R. - Quiet zones – it does appears to be the county that is responsible. So to the extent that the Borough wants this, they would really need to interface with the County planning department to work with the NJDOT rather than interface with the DOT correctly.
John Manzoni – you can do it jointly, but yes, the County would have to lead.
B.R. - Not necessarily Pitman specific – it is the expectation that the GCL team that the implementation policy will move forward will move forward like the Riverline did.
Mike Venuto – yes. And the quiet zones will be supported by our team.
B.R. - Some of the “D-bomb” (phonetic) contracts also include financials models. Is that we expect to move forward?
Mike Venuto - That is an option for us to consider.
Jennifer Grenier –Pitman,NJ
This is going to take a much wider spot going through town. Is there going to be anything to keep kids and people from wandering over onto those tracks? Is there a plan for security? There are always kids walking up and down those tracks? Is there a plan to keep people out?
Manzoni – there will be a fence in between the tracks and also landscaping to prevent wandering into the corridor.
Suzanne Lawton –Sewell
I looked at your alternatives. You talked about this is needed, .. I think that buses is better, but you said that buses would only increase traffic on the roads. You have $200 million now. It makes so much more sense to me to increase buses and use electric buses. It doesn’t make sense to me. It is ridiculously expensive. I wanted to know what you really looked into with respect to buses?
Manzoni – for alternative analysis we looked at a no-build. There is not much you can do with buses on the network. If you look at the roadway network throughout South Jersey – there is nothing, in terms of roadways, that runs North South from Glassboro to Camden.
S.L. You are talking like this is a done deal. Nobody has told me – is this a go? Are you doing this project?
Venuto – we do have the funding. We are proceeding to the next step. It is not the last time that we are out speaking to the public and to the towns to make sure we are mitigating the concerns.
Steve Roth –Pitman
Basically, this is two questions.
How will you be communicating with Conrail to use their tracks?
Answer:That will be through an operating agreement. They use a communicating system.
S.R.What you stated to Council, it would be the NJT police. Why can’t the Pitman Police handle that crime when they are closer?
Hanson – crimes and emergencies come under the jurisdiction of the operator. DRPA envisioned and also NJT. We also typically do receive mutual aid from the communities. We also provide support to the police officers in the towns that we are in.
S.R.For the County roads – are you going to be communicating with Gloucester County regarding the building on their roads.
Michael Howard – yes, we have reached out to all of Glo Co and Camden County. They are a key stake holder
Kevin Austin, Pitman
We are going to have a train every 7 or 15 minutes?
It is every 15 minutes.
K.A. I am concerned – I have been a firefighter in town for __ years. I do all the fire investigations. Any type of fire in a room flashes over in a room in about 4 minutes. I really think you should look at elevating this whole thing. I know it is going to happen bc that is what Rowan wants. I am concerned about the response time. Parking – people will be coming to Pitman to get on this train. Is there any thought about having cameras on the platforms. Have you spoken to PPD regarding tying into the cameras into them?
Venuto – we are in EIS right now, so we have not spoken to PPD or other PD’s yet. But we will.
K.A. I am firmly against this. I think it is an injustice. We are only two miles and we have three crossings we will have to apply for.
Liz McLeod, Pitman
I lived in Gloucester Township for 8 years. There is a big reason I no longer live in Gloucester Township. There is a reason why people live in Gloucester County – they like having to have longer drives without having to stop every 30 seconds. I don’t understand the need for this. I understand that Rowan is a big part of it. Why can Rowan amp up their shuttle? Why wasn’t anyone notified along the rail line.
Mayor – is your question, essentially “can we ax this whole project?”
L.M. - Yes, Why can’t Rowan amp up the shuttle they already have. Why can’t we go up to Woodbury Glassboro Road?
Answer:The Riverline doesn’t just serve Rowan or Rutgers. There is much more to it than busing from Rowan to Rutgers.
Venuto - Through the EIS, we did a number of public hearings and public outreach. We have been out in the public.
L.M. – why aren’t the citizens of Glo County not able to vote on this? Why are we forced to have it.
Venuto – if you go to the website, there is a list of all the outreach we have done and all the materials that has been presented.
Hanson – it has not been a secret. This has been going on for a long time. We have advertised and solicited feedback and input. We have done it the way that Governmental entities do that and are required to do that. We have also used social media tools. It has become a bigger issue now that the funding is in place. We have advertised the public hearings and we have received a large number of comments over the years.
L.M. – I understand that. It just doesn’t seem like anyone is listening with those with opposing views. Thank you.
Arelene Papadopoulos – Pitman
100% against the line. Reason being, we bought our home 22 years ago with the freight train going by. Our foundation is cracking and the walls, that we have to repair every few years.
Damage to my property? My personal opinion is that they have done studies on properties that it does not impact.
Manzoni – we have done them at random locations. We cannot do them at every single spot. We can capture what impacts there are to properties. When the project advances, we will look more into that as time moves on. We identified 50 properties in Pitman and they will be looked at in finer detail.
Venuto – some of the engineering measure – track bed, continuous – rail, things to improve, will improve Conrail’s tracks as well.
A.P. – you are just giving an idea. It is just an idea.
Manzoni – yes, but it is proven technology. It is not new ideas.
Hanson – began speaking, interrupted by Mayor by accident, who thought he was a member of the public
A.P. – I grew up in Burlington County my entire life. They have a lot more congestion.
Manzoni – I did not say they have less people, but just that their trip patterns. There is less density along that alignment than along this alignment.
A.P. – I disagree.
April Miller, Pitman
Stops model utilized to assess ridership. I know you are qualifying that the Riverline has a different – 12% decrease in mass transit. The stops model does not seem to account for that decrease. It also does not anticipate the decreased ridership and changes to the work –
Manzoni - The stops model has to use adopted census data – so these were approved and adopted forecasts. Whatever data is availabe.
A.M. – I am referencing the ridership data from the Federal Transit Authority.
Manzoni - It could have been on PA it could have been on the NJ side. I can’t speak to it without seeing the data.
A.M. – it feels concerning to see it put forth in our region with such huge concerns in our region.
Hanson – it is our experience on the PATCO line that we have seen high growth, increases in ridership pre-COVID. The numbers are still fighting to come back. We were getting the best ridership than we had seen since the 1990’s until March when COVID stopped everything.
Our experience is that ridership was riding and pretty dramatic.
Public Comment 8:00 p.m. meeting
Cheryl Reardon, Pitman
I have a couple of questions. EIS at the library and municipal building?
One way or both ways
They are suggesting that mostly pitman residents will be using it. But it is pretty far from one end of Pitman to the other. Could there be a shuttle to the station?
Has Pitman done a cost analysis to the impacts to the Borough? Certainly more police needed. Police officers would need special equipment. Fire trucks and equipment. Emergency equipment. All costs that would be coming back to the borough.
Referred to as an Environmental Impact Statement – most of what I heard has to do with the infrastructure. I am an Environmentalist. I have a great concerns with things like storm water runoff? Infrastructure analysis. Emissions from diesel engines. How would that effect the air quality in Pitman?
In putting the infrastructure in? Are there areas where special habitats are impacted? Threatened and endangered species?
Climate change? Small borough that is mostly all covered by asphalt and homes. What will the impacts to storm water and flooding be in the impacts in town.
Charles Hughes – I’m going to have to ask you to mute yourself and raise your hand. I don’t have that in my menu.
Barry Owen, Pitman
EDC Citizen – I promise I won’t get political. I’m not clear as to how many times a northbound train and how many times a southbound train will be going through on peak hours.
(Mayor Razze and Councilwoman Rudley– also heard that. Was it 95 each way or roundtrip. GCL wasn’t clear in their answer.)
B.O. The station is between Holly and Pitman. Just because gates are down over those sidewalks – during school hours it is going to be a gate. You will need a crossing guard there. The potential for ratable losses, looking at the report. The bank – Fulton – de minimus loss of property. Is that really true? Are they going to be able to operate losing the shrubbery? George’s auto body? He’ll be adequately compensated, but will we lose him. Cold storage plant. They are parked very close to the railroad. They probably won’t physically be able to stay there.
EDC is going to have to become involved in this. Maybe figure things out and get them moved, but there is a lot to be asked here.
When Jennifer Grenier say that the kids cutting across. I heard the gentlemen say there would be landscaping and fencing across the middle. Landscaping isn’t going to cut it. There is going to need to be a lot more to make the kids think twice.
Jim Pierpont, Pitman
I sent a text message to you during the chat. I believe this has been around since 1998. I believe we were in the last public discussion in 2008. The changes since 1998 and 2008. If I am wrong, I remember them saying they were going to use the existing track with some upgrades to be used. Now I am hearing that they are going to be using two sets of tracks. They just changed it without any public hearings at all – the changes have made a big impact from a single rail to a double rail. I would appreciate it if you could forward my comment through to the people with the project.
Mayor Razze - My recollection is the same. I also do not remember during the 2008 public hearings, the number of trains has increased.
Jim Pierpont – I understand that changes happen. But changes without any public comments, that is unheard of. No transparency.
Charles A. Hughes, Woodbury
First comment, that I’d like to make is that I heard people make a comment about no public input. I look up a lot of old newspapers. In October 1996 the Glo County freeholders passed a resolution 6-1 condemning the GCL. The GCL was stopped for a couple of years.
In Woodbury, two meeting ago, they passed the resolution supporting a new exit on the turnpike. I believe any municipality has the ability to pass a resolution condemning or supporting the GCL.
Steve Roth - Pitman.
I’m really sorry. They did say there would be fencing. An electrical fence or a wooden fence. If it is a wooden fence, it will just get knocked over.
Why aren’t you voting on this? W
Mayor – we will definitely address with them the safety. That is something we will bring to their attention.
(Unrelated public comment – regarding Glen Lake dam)
Bill Ritzler – Pitman
Having been the historic commission chairman, I appreciate brevity at meetings. I just want to cover some points. One quick disclosure. I am a ____ railway passengers. We are a 501c3, we advocate for railway passengers. We are on behalf of membership not for the trains. The first study was issued in 1993, 1996 second study, feasibility study began in 2003, alternative analysis was released in 2009. All of these included public input. And then the EIS also. This is all consistent with FTA and DEP. …
Quiet zones – would it apply to Conrail? That is a discussion that is occurring at a governmental level above council. It is occurring through NJDOT. DBOMB contractor who operates GCL. You actually need to talk to Conrail to get them to follow that. That is something that should occur during the entire negotiation process.
Finally, I know folks talked about elevation. When I asked that question, all of the things that the folks are looking for – like elevation and other options. Much of that should have already come out of the final EIS. We are beyond the point where the significant modifications can be done. Within the scope of what can realistically be asked, the fencing is within that area.
Stephani Schiap . . (no spelling provided)Pitman
Do we have a say if the train even stops here or no?
Can it just blow through?
My concern is obviously that we are thriving pretty good downtown. Now no parking and every 15 seconds an obnoxious train blowing through - changing drastically. Lots of funding will be needed. I know we can only do so much. The train has obviously left the station, but I would really try to fight hard for the people that live here and why they live here. Maybe you can move the craft fair. I would like it to move forward. I am just a little concerned with funding all of this. I don’t know who we can keep the good - good without a love of money. I hope we are going to work to try to balance that out if we have no other option.
Councilwoman Rudley – my understanding from the presentation the GCL team gave to us in 2016 is that the 2012 Council requested a stop in Pitman, reasoning that if it was going to come through anyway, we would want the benefits of a stop. This request was made and a stop was added for Pitman.
Ryan Ri .. (no spelling provided), Pitman
On the initial call, someone mentioned that there were 50 pitman addresses that will be impacted by the horns. Maybe there is a list of these addresses.
Financial implications from a taxpayer perspective. What that financial burden will be like. Impact to tax payers?
Benefit to towns?
Mayor Razze – I didn’t see the list of addresses.
Councilwoman Rudley – there was a short list included on the EIS, but I did not see 50 addresses. Perhaps it was in a footnote or an attachment.
Kathleen Daffin, Sewell
I am an admin for a Facebook which is say no the GCL. We have more than 1900 members. All of the information is based upon data that was collected between 2003 and 2012.
They expected growth of 35% and the real growth was more like 1%
The FTA says they are no longer funding this project. I imaging it is going to be private funding.
Have they given us a final cost for the actual cost for the final build out?
I know that they are saying that 110 parking spaces. Have they talk to Pitman about what they are going to do in the town in Pitman.
Ellen Brooks, Pitman
How likely is it that the County will be willing to take on the liability and the expense? It is going to seriously change the aesthetic in the town – chain link fence, tree removal. Something in historic or environmental?
Increased insurance costs? How likely they would be to incur that? How cooperative is the County in that regard?
Liz McLeod, Pitman
Was communication placed to residents along the tracks? A lot of the fencing is barbed wire along patco and riverline. Will there be barbed wire?
Stephanie Schiab --- hand is still raised. No comment given
Jennifer Duffy, Sewell
We had the same meeting. We had the same discussion. It was our understanding that we are responsible for the quiet zones. We were also told that we have to cover the maintenance. Check into that again because we were told something different. That the four points were to make installation easier.