In 2027, Rowan students will have the opportunity to benefit from the full operation of the Gloucester-Camden Line (GCL) and its two Glassboro stations, one located right on Rowan University’s doorstep.
The GCL is a proposed passenger rail line that would span from Glassboro to the Camden area with stops throughout the Southern New Jersey area. Its initial conception was announced in 2009 by the current New Jersey governor at the time, Jon S. Corzine. At this time, Corzine had also pledged $500 million to the project from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund in order to help pay the rail’s $1.8 billion projected costs. However, little support was seen from the succeeding governor, Chris Christie, who refused to commit New Jersey funding to the rail’s construction.
At this time, the GCL project was slowed down, due to its distinct lack of funding, but it continued progress nonetheless. In 2012, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), who have agreed to see the GCL through its study phase, worked with NJ Transit to conduct a federally-required, $8.1 million Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to discern the environmental and community effects of the train, which was ultimately released in Feb. 2021.
“[The EIS] looks at the potential social, economic, environmental impacts to the community… the noise, the air quality and the wetlands and things like that. So we look at it holistically along the entire railway of what all of the potential impacts would be,” Michael Venuto, chief engineer of DRPA and the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO), said. “And then what we do is as we move into that preliminary engineering phase we look to mitigate or eliminate the impacts through our design.”
The preliminary engineering phase is where the GCL project lies in wait. Currently, DRPA engineers are completing what DRPA CEO and PATCO President John Hanson described as the first 30% of the phase before they hand the remaining 70% to an additional, to-be-determined firm that will finish the remaining design of the railway. The initial 30%, as well as the firm selection process, is expected to be completed in the early half of 2022. The remainder of the preliminary engineering phase, however, could take between two to three years.
Following the conclusion of this phase, the DRPA timeline hopes that construction will be completed and the line will be ready for operation sometime towards the end of 2027, early 2028.
“It is going to connect people. Essentially, it’s going to connect people to the greater Camden, Philadelphia metropolitan area, but it’s also going to connect people to the towns and the downtowns along the way,” Hanson said. “We connect people to friends, family, loved ones. We connect them to doctors, to teachers, to jobs, to internships.”
In addition to the community connection that the GCL will foster, the Rowan community will also reap benefits from the project as two train stops have been confirmed for the town of Glassboro.
“We all know about the parking situation there at Rowan… the university obviously is growing, right? It’s growing in leaps and bounds,” Venuto said. “And this will provide more opportunities to increase the student body without actually increasing the parking necessity and the congestion around campus.”
As of fall 2020, only 24% of Rowan’s approximately 20,000 students live on campus, leaving the large remainder of students vying for one of Rowan’s limited parking spaces.
The Philadelphia and Camden connections that the line would extend job and internship opportunities to the Rowan community that students who live on-campus wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
“Think about the amount of internships now that students who are on campus without a car, they can be connected to. They can connect themselves now to internships available in Philadelphia, really anywhere, and they can come here to Camden and take PATCO to all those communities along there,” Venuto said. “So [it] really opens up the access, specifically for Rowan students, to enhance their educational experience while having the opportunity to work combined with their schooling.”
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