Middlesex officials rap validity of rail survey


According to a recently released survey, most residents who live near the existing freight line that would become the proposed Monmouth-Ocean- Middlesex (MOM) passenger rail line want it to be built.

However, officials from South Brunswick doubt the accuracy of the poll and continue to oppose the line.

The poll, commissioned by Monmouth and Ocean counties and conducted by McLaughlin andAssociates, surveyed 150 residents from Ocean County, 150 residents from Monmouth County and 200 residents from Middlesex County. The survey revealed that 78 percent of people inMiddlesex favor the passenger rail line, 81 percent in Ocean favor the line and 79 percent in Monmouth favor the line.

“We could do a survey of 1,000 people and come up with our own numbers,” South Brunswick Mayor Frank Gambatese said. “Asample of 500 is not indicative of anything. It does not impress me in the least. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

“Monmouth and Ocean counties did it because they thought it was to their advantage,” Middlesex County Freeholder Director David Crabiel said. “They want to dump it into Middlesex.”

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian Burry disagrees.

“All of this was done on a very professional scale,” Burry said. “Apparently, (McLaughlin and Associates) can back their numbers.”

Burry said the group came up with the questions, who to poll and everything connected with the survey.

“People want it,” Burry said of the passenger rail service. “I don’t think anyone can argue with that.”

She said it would behoove elected officials inMiddlesex County to listen to their constituents.

The survey was conducted via phone interviews Dec. 12-13. It began with questions about the respondent’s commute and asked what issues are most important to that person, including taxes and traffic. The respondents were then asked about the MOM line. Other possible regional routes for a rail line were not mentioned. After telling those who were being polled where the line would travel, here is what was asked, according to the survey itself:

“For area residents, this alignment would permit more transportation options when traveling within the region and also connect residents by rail to places like Trenton, New Brunswick, Metro Park, Newark Liberty International Airport, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Knowing this, do you favor or oppose this alignment?”

Respondents in all three counties also said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for office who supported the MOM line.

Burry said the MOM line that would run between Lakehurst in Ocean County and the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick in Middlesex County is the only logical route.

That route would pass through northern Ocean County and western Monmouth County before entering Middlesex County and eventually linking up with the Northeast Corridor rail line in South Brunswick.

“It’s the missing link in the New Jersey Transit line,” Burry said.

Middlesex County officials and officials in theMiddlesex County municipalities of Monroe Township, Jamesburg and South Brunswick have opposed the construction of a passenger rail line for years.

Gambatese compared the survey to one South Brunswick did on its own. He said South Brunswick sent out 10,800 surveys, one to every homeowner in town, and got 3,300 surveys back. Yet Gambatese said he does not have to survey his residents.

“We have gotten hundreds of letters from people who don’t want this (passenger rail line) to happen,” he said.

The South Brunswick mayor added that homes would have to be displaced in order to build the line and to build a tunnel that would be needed.

Burry said her only concern was preserving Monmouth battlefield in Manalapan so the rail line does not disrupt the historical nature of that site.

The existing freight rail line that would be developed as the MOM passenger rail line runs near the Monmouth battlefield in the area of Route 522 in Manalapan.

Burry also mentioned that providing parking for people who would pick up the passenger train along the route through Ocean and Monmouth counties would be a challenge.

Money also seems to be a big issue with officials on both sides of the issue.

“Nobody wants to come up with the money for this,” Crabiel said. “There is no money.”

“I’m hoping it will be 100 percent funded by the federal government,” Burry said. “Don’t look to the state for anything because your stocking will be empty.”