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Officials hope that a $3.5 million project to make improvements to the county rail line will help to spur economic development in the city and other parts of the county.
The rehabilitation project will focus on improving a half-mile part of the track as well as connect two crossings in the area of Front Street and Griffith Street in the city adjacent to the port.
"This is a huge step for Salem County to promote economic development," said Salem County Freeholder Director Bob Vanderslice. "We believe there is a lot of opportunities not only in the city of Salem but along the rail line in the county. Today is a great day."
The county will be receiving funding for the project from the state's Transportation Trust Fund as well as a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The port area in Salem sits on what is known as the Salem County Short Line, an 18-mile stretch of railroad that run from Salem City to Swedesboro.
Officials are hoping that businesses use the rail line's port area, especially with it being located in a Foreign Trade Zone. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one advantage of being in the zone means "merchandise is not subject to U.S. duty or excise tax," thus lowering costs.
"Unlocking this port is a great opportunity," said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3rd Dist. "On the rail line itself, business will come with freight being able to move freely. I think there is a big future for this line, whether it is freight or some scenic traffic on the weekends. A ride from Swedesboro with a stop in Woodstown, ending in Salem is not a bad afternoon for somebody. The rail helped build Salem City and the rail will help renew Salem City."
Salem County Freeholder Deputy Director Ben Laury said the project would take close to six months to complete with trains ready to use the rehabilitated tracks after the project is completed.
"This has been a bipartisan effort from Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno to Senator Sweeney and Assemblyman Burzichelli, down to the freeholders. It has been bipartisan. It is not a Democrat or Republican thing. It is about getting jobs for Salem County," Laury said.
Millions have been spent to upgrade the rail line in recet years. The hope is that once the final rehabilitation work is complete businesses that need reail service will locate in the city.
In addition to Vanderslice, Burzichelli and Laury, Steve Kerr of SRNJ Railroad, Salem County Engineer Jim McKelvie and Salem County Freeholder Scott Griscom were in attendance.
This article first appeared on www.nj.com
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