Lackawanna Cutoff project may be moving forward

Township Committee: 'Tentative agreement' reached

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  • NJ Transit map showing the cutoff Photo courtesy of NJ Transit

  • Andover Township Mayor Janis McGovern Photo provided

By Mandy Coriston

— New Jersey Transit's plan to build a new train station in Andover and restore commuter rail service to southern Sussex County, a project that has been stalled for years, may at last be back on track, according to township officials.

"We have been at an impasse," Andover Mayor Janis McGovern said. "Now we have the opportunity to move forward with the project."

The Andover Township Committee, at its meeting on Monday, April 9, delivered the much-anticipated news about the proposed Lackawanna Cutoff rail station. Township Attorney Fred Semrau announced that months of negotiations have led to a tentative agreement between the township and the owners of Hudson Farms to provide access to a culvert which sits on Hudson Farms’ property. Mayor McGovern said that this development signals the removal of the last obstacle in New Jersey Transit’s plan to restore rail service on the Port Morris Line.

Township representatives undertook the talks with Hudson Farms at the behest of New Jersey Transit, in what Semrau called “an unusual case of the town interceding for the state,” as he applauded the efforts of all those involved.

John Ursin, attorney for Hudson Farms, confirmed that a tentative agreement to address the culvert issue has been reached.

"My client never wished to be in the middle of this New Jersey Transit project," Ursin said. "We have trying to see how best we could cooperate with the other parties."

Ursin said the agreement is not yet in writing, but Hudson Farms has agreed to some as-yet undisclosed terms that will allow the township to consult with NJ Transit before putting the agreement on paper.

McGovern said the governing body will put the details into a resolution which will be presented at the township committee meeting of April 23.

"I cannot go into the details at his time," McGovern said. "But they involve compensation to Hudson Farms, the kind of access to their property that the project will require, and who will be responsible for maintenance of the culvert."

The culvert has long been the subject of discord between New Jersey Transit and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, which argued that the existing drainage pipe must be replaced to avoid damage to fragile wetlands in the case of extraordinary floods. New Jersey Transit had been forced to consider an alternate route of the railbed, at a cost of approximately $800,000. The agreement between the town and Hudson Farms will save the state that money and ensure that the property owners will be compensated for use of their land. NJ Transit will also be reimbursing Andover Township for its expenses incurred during the negotiations. Much of the proposed track has been laid or restored since 2011, and the Andover Station is slated to be built with access from Roseville Road, designed with parking for up to 55 vehicles and a 200-ft. platform.

The committee also voted to approve the 2018 budget of $6.4 million, with a $32,000 allotment to land trust and preservation. The Recreation Committee declared this year’s Easter Egg Hunt a success, and the Land Use Committee reported that the renovations at the Fire Department’s Limecrest Road station are underway and going well. The newly reestablished Environmental Commission announced partnerships with the Sussex County Technical School graphic design department and the Land Conservancy to develop tourism and trail map brochures of the township, to aid both residents and visitors in getting the most out of the town’s many outdoor activities and landmarks. Residents are also invited to participate in Earth Day cleanup at Kittatinny Valley State Park; all interested may meet at the park’s administration building on Sunday, April 22, at 10 a.m.

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