From today's Star Ledger.
Morristown railroad abandons plan for Roxbury debris depot
County may study hauling waste by rail
Sunday, March 06, 2005
BY LAWRENCE RAGONESE
A Morristown-based railroad has scrapped plans for a 600-ton-a-day construction and demolition debris rail depot in Roxbury and will end its legal battle against Morris County.
Gordon Fuller, chief operating officer for the Morristown & Erie Railway, said he still thinks hauling debris to out-of-state landfills by rail is a good concept but said his company's offering might have been a little ahead of its time.
"Our contractor got ahead of himself, jumped the gun on the plan and made everyone's life miserable on this issue," said Fuller, referring to Northeast & Central Rail Transport. "We'll back off on this, wait until the future when the need is better identified."
That might not be too far off. The county Municipal Utilities Authority may do a feasibility study on hauling trash by rail, as part of a comprehensive plan for the county's future waste disposal, MUA Executive Director Glenn Schweizer said Monday.
Morris County does not have a disposal facility for construction debris. An attempt several years ago by a Montville firm to locate such a plant adjacent to its massive auto junkyard in Pine Brook, to sort and recycle or dump the materials, ran into staunch local opposition.
Schweizer said contractors now must either bring debris to the county's two trash stations or haul larger quantities to so-called class B recycling facilities, which recycle individual materials such as concrete, wood and asphalt.
Morris County purchased two defunct rail lines, the High Bridge and Dover & Rockaway lines, from Conrail in 1986 to encourage commercial growth and to provide an alternative to truck traffic. The county entered a lease agreement with Morristown & Erie in 1986 and renewed the lease, via bidding, in 1997 and again in 2002 for use of those lines.
The two sides had a mostly amicable relationship during that period. But the peace ended in February 2004, when tree clearing and site work started for a construction debris station off Berkshire Valley Road, along the High Bridge line.
Roxbury officials called the county, which went to court to stop the project.
The rail firms intended to build a facility for 600 tons of construction debris daily, with a potential for 1,000 tons. The material would have been trucked to the rail yard in 46 to 77 deliveries daily, with the material then loaded on trains and shipped from Roxbury to Ohio. That possibility alarmed Roxbury officials.
The county charged that M&E was violating the terms of its lease, which prohibits making alterations to the leased rail property or entering into agreements for its use by a third party without county consent.
Fuller, whose firm has cut ties with Northeast & Central Rail Transport, said this week he regrets the tensions between his firm and the county that resulted from the rail depot proposal. But he thinks the concept still has merit.
"It would be better to have it (debris) shipped by rail than have lots of trucks hauling it along our highways," Fuller said.
Schweizer agreed the concept is worth considering but said there are potential obstacles, such as the proximity of out-of-state dump sites to rail lines. He also said the county, by court order, must rebid management of the county's trash stations in Parsippany and Mount Olive every five years. The county might be hesitant to invest in a rail depot that a new management firm might not want to use, he said.
Morristown & Erie also must bid to lease the county's rail line, with its current contract running through 2007.