How Not to Run a Railroad

promoted by Rosi

This article concerns some events that affect a relatively small number of people in a small corner of Burlington County, but there are lessons to be learned here for any community.

There’s a railroad bridge over Creek Road in Hainesport Township, NJ that is owned by Conrail and is over 100 years old. Near the bridge, there are numerous residences and businesses, and the roads carry 17,000 vehicles per day. Due to its age, the bridge had to be replaced, and that construction is happening now.

At Wednesday night’s meeting of the Burlington County Freeholders, several businesspeople came to point out that the management of this bridge reconstruction project has been a fiasco. Although the detours around the construction site are clearly marked, some truck drivers are ignoring the signs and driving through and damaging private property. In other areas near the construction site, barricades are in place that would block or delay first responders access to residences in case of emergency. Residents’ access to public transportation is cut off, making it difficult for people to get to work. Two automobile accidents have already happened in the first week of what has been nominally portrayed as a three-week construction duration. Local businesses are suffering with one businessman stating that his establishment has seen an 80% reduction in the number of customers.

Some of these problems are unavoidable. The roads had to be closed for safety purposes. The bridge had to be replaced. But how this project was managed was a fiasco.

The government agencies in the two towns affected by the construction were not informed of the road detours until the signs went up. Local businesses say they were not told about the detours until shortly before access to their establishments was limited.

Exacerbating the problem was the number of entities involved in the planning and execution of the project. Conrail, its construction contractor, the two towns, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the County Engineer, and the Federal Railroad Administration all had their hands in this project.

In retrospect, flags should have been raised about Conrail’s performance after its disaster in a similar bridge collapse in Paulsboro a few years ago. Having listened to the complaints from local businesses and residents, it’s clear that they were not involved in the planning for the project and are the ones bearing the brunt of the lack of communications. The contractor is working only until 3PM each day, even though there are several more hours of daylight, and there’s not a lot of confidence among those most affected that this phase of the project will be completed in the advertised three weeks.

I’m sure stories like this are common throughout the state. But without someone clearly in charge, this “the buck stops nowhere” approach causes grief and harm not to Conrail, not to our elected officials, but to the small businesses and residents who bear the brunt of poor planning. We can do better. And we should.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *