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When will rail service extend into Sussex County? Ask @CommutingLarry

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NJ Transit's Lackawanna Cut-off to restore commuter rail service to Sussex County has hit a delay. When will it start rolling? Ask @Commuting Larry

When will construction start on a new station to serve a new NJ Transit rail line? There's a whistle blowing down the tracks for the mailbag express.

The Lackawanna cutoff project would restore 7.3 miles of track between the Port Morris rail yards and Andover Township. That will connect to NJ Transit's Morris & Essex lines at Port Morris. The first 4.25 miles of track have been installed on the former Lackawanna Cutoff, as part of the first part of the project.

Q: When will NJTransit start construction of the Andover train station? It was waiting on a DEP permit the last we heard

A: The process leading to station construction and rebuilding will go out for contractors to bid on it by the end of the year, said Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman.

"NJ Transit anticipates full design of the station will be finalized in December with a request for bids for reconstruction of the nearby Roseville Tunnel also going out by the end of the year," she said.

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That's a delay from plans to take bids last Spring to build the station and start work on the tunnel, which is in Byram.

"The current schedule anticipates station construction will start in the fall of 2016, with the Andover Station opening and service starting in the fall of 2018," Snyder said.

Here's the backstory. That rail line was abandoned in the 1970's and the tracks were torn-up in the 1980's. The Lackawanna cut-off is the first phase of a more ambitious plan that would expand commuter service on the remaining 31-miles abandoned rail line into Pennsylvania sometime in the future. In 2008, it was estimated that plan would cost $551 million.

Restoration of the 7.3 mile line was opposed by the Sierra Club's state chapter because it could open up environmentally sensitive areas in the Highlands region to sprawling development.


RELATED: Efforts to inform NJ Transit bus commuters hit a speed bump


Environmental concerns include locations where tracks pass through wetlands and trout streams. The bigger concern is that it would accelerate development around the train stations, and environmentalists contend the money would be better  spent on other rail lines.

The project received federal environmental approvals in 2008.
However, it needed state environmental approvals to build in a wetland and a flood zone. 

The state Department of Environmental Protection granted a conditional Flood Hazard Area Permit and Freshwater Wetland Permit to NJ Transit on March 26 for the Andover Station, Snyder said.

What NJ Transit has to do to satisfy to meet the requirements of the conditional permit is to secure wetlands credits to compensate for the wetlands that the station will be built on.

Securing the credits could take approximately 10 months, and they must be obtained before construction begins, Snyder said.NJ Transit also has to work with a local landowner to reconstruct a drainage culvert upstream of the station site, she said.

From happenings on the highway, such as how to make work zones safer for motorcycles to transit topics including the renovation of Track 5 at Newark, Penn Station, we try to find answers to reader's questions. Ask us your question. 

Larry Higgs may be reached at lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @commutinglarry. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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