End of the line for Seashore Lines?

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State no longer requires vehicles to stop at railroad crossings

LOWER TOWNSHIP – Township manager Mike Voll said this week that state officials have approved “Exempt Crossing” signs for railroad crossings at two intersections here.

“Of course we consider this a victory,” Voll said Tuesday. “We have been asking for those signs for some time. It has really created a safety hazard in Lower Township. Now buses won’t have to stop for some kind of ghost train.”

According to Voll, once the signs are installed, school buses and other vehicles required to come to a full stop at railroad crossing will not have to stop.

“When school lets out and those buses head north on Rt. 9, the complete stop at the crossing leaves the rear end of the vehicle hanging out there,” he said. “I was actually there one day when the same thing happened at the Seashore and Tabernacle crossing, and a bus was nearly rear-ended by a car.”

The state’s Department of Transportation approved the township’s request for the signs earlier this week. Voll reported that he received the notification by letter from NJ DOT Commissioner Jim Simpson.

“With this approval, the Commissioner of DOT has hereby ordered Cape May Seashore Lines to install at each crossing ‘Exempt’ signs, in conformance with the regulations on Uniform Traffic Control Devices by Feb. 28, 2013,” Voll said in a press release.

In March 2012, Voll asked state transit authorities to place “Out of Service” signs at railroad crossings here and to consider revoking the Cape May Seashore Lines’ right to use the railways. He said the operation had not run any type of train service for years in southern Cape May County, but state and federal law still required school buses, tankers carrying fuel, transit buses, and others to stop at the railroad crossings.

Last year’s request for the signage was spurred by the final stages of the road construction along Rt. 9, also known as Seashore Road, and the crossings between roadways at Breakwater and Tabernacle Roads.

It’s not clear if or when Cape May Seashore Lines will resume service. In the summer of 2011, the company “temporarily” suspended train service to Cape May City to allow road construction at the railroad crossings to continue.

In a statement last year, Tony Macrie, the owner of Cape May Seashore Lines, explained his decision to stop service to Cape May through Rio Grande.

“The Seashore Lines determined during early summer (2011) to temporarily postpone all train service to Cape May City to allow construction to progress in a timely and efficient manner in opening the new crossings, and eliminating the old crossings,” he said. “This decision was solely motivated in the matter of safety...safety for construction/utility workers performing their duties in close proximity to the four crossings, safety for motorists, safety for pedestrians and safety for train passengers and train crews. “

“The Seashore Lines has unconditionally supported this New Jersey Department of Transportation project from its inception. As the safe course is always the only course to follow, we will resume operations when we believe that we can operate trains in as safe a manner as we have done for the past 15 years.”

Construction on Seashore Road began in January 2011 and was completed in late summer 2012. The railroad has yet to reopen, however.

“I’m not hearing anything new about the railroad itself,” said Voll. “If you ask Macrie he’ll say that he’ll have a schedule next year and have it up and running – but next year never seems to come.

“We’ve put all that state and federal money into the improvements on that railway and that money has just gone to waste. I don’t think that railroad will ever run again,” he said.

The latest update on the company’s website says that “train and ticket information will be posted when available.” The post was made on Oct. 2, 2012.

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