Monday, July 26th, 2010

County officials report the rehabilitation of the Chester Branch Railroad, a four mile rail line extending from Wharton and terminating in Roxbury Township, is underway and should be completed within four to five months.

The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders in April awarded a $5.1 million contract to the firm Railroad Construction Company, Inc, of Paterson to rehabilitate the rail line, with the money coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The four-mile active freight line now serves Roxbury commercial users, but with the rehabilitation, it has the potential to also serve customers in Randolph, in particular the former Westinghouse site, now the BETA Corporate Park, said Freeholder Director Gene Feyl.

“The rehabilitation of the Chester Branch meets the intent of the federal stimulus legislation by creating employment opportunities not only during rehabilitation but by the future economic opportunities it will create in Morris County,” Feyl said. “Since one rail car is approximately equivalent to four tractor trailers, the efficient use of this rail line also has the potential to reduce truck traffic along major roadways in the county.”

Brush cutting in the work area has been completed; the railroad crossing sight distances have been increased to meet Federal Railroad Administration standards; new track is being installed on a daily basis; and railroad crossing replacements at Main Street, First Street and Berkshire Valley Road are being scheduled.

The freight line was donated to the county by Chester Branch, LLC, in October 2009, and the Morristown & Erie Railway has a management agreement with the county to continue to operate on the Chester Branch. The M&E also operates the two other county-owned rail lines: the High Bridge Branch and the Dover & Rockaway Railroad.

The Chester Branch connects to the High Bridge Branch, and these two lines connect to the NJ Transit line near the Roxbury – Rockaway Township border, enabling freight service to connect throughout New Jersey and nationwide.

Details about the Chester Branch Rail Project may be found on the Morris County Transportation Division Web site, www.MorrisDOT.org .