MILLVILLE — Motorists know one thing for sure when a Winchester & Western Railroad train rumbles through the city: Their trip often comes to a stop.
The trains — one or two engines sometimes hauling as many as 30 cars — have for years caused traffic backups as they crossed busy thoroughfares, particularly North Second Street at G Street and Main Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.
Those are not lightly traveled routes. Second Street is Route 47, and Main Street is Route 49. Both are state highways that are key routes through South Jersey.
But travelers should get a break in a few months. The railroad is planning to spend more than $500,000 in state transportation funds on a 2,000-foot-long siding track in the South Millville Industrial Park. The work will allow the railroad to better serve its customers in the park.
However, the bigger benefit is that the siding track will give the Winchester & Western a better place to pick up and drop off rail cars. That should put an end to Winchester & Western trains bringing traffic to a halt as they shunt back and forth across Second and Main streets.
“It will minimize the number of cars that have to go through the city,” Winchester & Western Roadmaster Art Amador said.
While the plan still needs the appropriate government approvals, Amador said the railroad hopes to start work in a few months.
City Commissioner Dale Finch said the work should reduce concerns local officials have had for years about the potential for significant problems linked to the traffic stoppages. One of those concerns involves public safety, he said.
“It could be a big issue,” Finch said. “You can’t get around.”
The Winchester & Western is the only railroad that regularly runs through Cumberland County and part of Salem County.
Silica sand makes up 18 percent of the goods moved by the railroad. The rest of the freight includes fresh and refrigerated food products, refrigerant gasses, butane, propane, grain, fertilizer, scrap metal, building construction products, lumber, plywood, soda ash and corn sweetener.
The railroad operates only on the 48 miles of track in Cumberland and Salem counties as part of its New Jersey Division. Millville’s location is crucial for the railroad firm’s business. Connections with other rail companies that include Norfolk Southern and CSX are made there.
The Winchester & Western also has a Virginia Division that operates in parts of Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.
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