Edison signs on in fight against ‘trash train’

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EDISON — Stewart Weiss got a little help from his governing body in his effort to derail the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s plan to increase railroad cargo movement in the local area.

The proposal, which has motivated Weiss to take on Goliath state and federal agencies, aims to increase the authority’s capacity for container shipments from 2.3 million to 8.8 million per year by reactivating defunct train tracks and constructing new ones.

The controversial plan — dubbed the "trash train" by some critics — would cart garbage from New York through New Jersey on its way to landfills in other states.

The result, according to Weiss, will be traffic gridlock, added pollution from the gridlock and garbage fumes. As the added trains chug through town, he said he fears they will also halt police, fire and other emergency vehicles from getting to the other side of the tracks, where an emergency may be in progress.

The Township Council, at its April 28 meeting, agreed with Weiss and passed a resolution supporting the efforts of Weiss’ group, dubbed the Inman Railroad Committee.

To accomplish the goal of increasing cargo movement, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed the construction of a second "short line" freight track from Edison to Bound Brook , in addition to another "short line" from Linden to Summit, according to the resolution.

With the resolution, the township joined Weiss’ group, as well as other municipalities affected by the lines, to petition Gov. James E. McGreevey to halt construction and/or any funding for the project.

In his own report on the subject, which he forwarded to McGreevey, Weiss points out what he sees as a contradiction between pollution and the pending rail situation.

"Considering the fact that federal transportation funding for New Jersey can be further threatened by any worsening of our ability to meet air quality standards, NJDOT should not be making any rail or road plans to accommodate port expansion and New York City garbage until the impact on the state air quality management plan is resolved," his correspondence read. "Why should the Port Authority and New York garbage be treated any differently?"

The township supported further study to find a better resolution to the problem, according to the resolution.

In addition, council Vice President Parag Patel suggested that petitions go in Edison stores.

Weiss thanked the council for its support, but stressed that the fight has only begun.

The plan has to be stopped before it starts, he said, because "once they are built, we cannot stop it because it will be part of interstate commerce."

Weiss said he believes the track proposed for use on the Edison to Bound Brook line would "divorce" residents from emergency services. These new lines will have numerous grade crossings that will cause gridlock in already congested areas not only in Edison, but the surrounding communities, he said.

"Inman [Avenue] will become unusable," he said. Weiss cited an instance where a police officer came blazing down the street with his sirens blaring and lights flashing and was halted by the railroad crossing. He had to make a U-turn," Weiss said.

Another track would intensify the problem to unknown proportions, he said.

Weiss highlighted the situation in Summit as an example of why Edison needs to fight the line.

"I can’t think of a more congested area than on Route 22," Weiss said. "It has to be stopped before it gets here."

The township’s resolution will be forwarded to the governor and the DOT as a formality of the township’s opposition to the initiative.