LOWER TOWNSHIP — State Department of Transportation has agreed to declare two railroad crossings out of service to prevent potential accidents with buses at the Lower Cape May Regional School District.
Both Tabernacle Road and Breakwater Road were recently extended from their former terminus at Seashore Road to connect with Route 9. The roads cross the Cape May Seashore Lines rail line, which has not run trains on the track for several years.
“They have to stop at every railroad crossing even if it’s not operating. It creates a hazard for every school bus,” said Township Manager Mike Voll.
The main hazard is a traffic problem known as “stacking.” Buses tend to arrive and leave at the same time so stopping at the crossings was resulting in them backing up to crossroads such as Route 9 and Seashore Road. Voll said posting “out-of-service” signs will allow the buses and other trucks that by law must stop at rail crossings, such as fuel trucks, to proceed without stopping.
Voll said the DOT also agreed to some timing changes on the lights.
“DOT agreed to adjust the timing on the traffic signals to extend the green light at the Tabernacle crossing between Route 9 and Seashore Road so the buses will be able to move through in a safer manner and eliminate the stacking up on Route 9 while waiting to cross,” Voll said.
The problem only happened for a few weeks as shortly after the new intersections opened the school year ended, though Voll said he was monitoring the situation one day and saw a school bus almost get rear-ended. Voll said he wants to solve the problem before another school year starts in September.
Cape May Seashore Lines President Tony Macrie agreed to the sign change.
“We’ll do what we can from a railroad standpoint. There are no trains running today. It’s understood that once the trains are back all the signs are removed,” Macrie said.
Cape May Seashore Lines has sporadically run tourist trains along the track to Cape May, but in recent years had problems with the railroad bridge over the Cape May Canal and then the construction work during the $10 million DOT project to extend Breakwater and Seashore roads. Macrie said the latest problem stopping the trains is metal thieves stole some 800 feet of track in the Dennisville area. Arrests have been made.
“It’s all in the attorneys hands now. The process is moving forward. We’re very anxious to return train service there,” Macrie said.
In March, Voll asked New Jersey Transit, which owns the railroad tracks, to revoke Macrie’s right to use them. He called the Cape May Seashore Line’s “ghost trains.”
Since then Macrie and Voll had a meeting with representatives of New Jersey Transit and the DOT and found at least a temporary solution.
“The final decision is the DOT’s but I’m not opposing it. I think it is a positive,” Macrie said.
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