GCL Project Update and Restart
October 23 2017
The GCL team is pleased to announce that we are working to complete the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Project. We anticipate a draft EIS to be available for public review in the spring of 2018, with final approvals expected in the fall of 2018. The EIS will analyze the potential effects of the Preferred Alternative selected during the Alternatives Analysis phase on the human and built environments. The main goals of the analysis are to identify potential positive and negative impacts to both the natural and built environments, to all potential users, impact of construction on the community, and any additional effects to the area over time that would be created by the construction and operation of the light rail system. Once the GCL team has had the chance to interpret the findings, we anticipate hosting public information sessions in the winter and summer of 2018 to solicit input from the public before the finalizing the EIS.
Growth in the Corridor
Southern New Jersey is significantly under served by fixed rail transit network relative to southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern New Jersey. GCL is a key opportunity to address this deficiency and benefit the rapidly growing communities in Southern New Jersey.
There are a number of key drivers to the need for increased transit services in the corridor. For example, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s (DVRPC) Connections 2045 Plan for Greater Philadelphia estimates that Gloucester County’s population and employment will grow by 29% between 2015 and 2045. This projected growth is the highest of all the counties within the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) planning area and will need to be focused in order to contain sprawl. The GCL will become a key component to help focus this growth, provide mobility options and congestion relief.
In addition to overall increased travel demand from Gloucester County commuters, the two termini of the proposed line, Camden and Glassboro, have experienced significant growth over the last 10 years and will continue to redevelop and grow. The City of Camden is undergoing transformative redevelopment and growth with developments such as the Knights Crossing Campus headed up by Campbell Soup and Brandywine Realty Trust, and the Camden Waterfront Project led by Liberty Property Trust, to name a few.
The Borough of Glassboro and Rowan University have also experienced significant growth and expansion with student enrollment increasing 50% since the GCL study began and is projected to more than double by the time the rail line would be in service. Glassboro is near completion of its ambitious $400 million downtown redevelopment project jointly lead by the Borough and Rowan University. More than 80 acres have been transformed with over 2,000 market rate residential units, more than 100 new businesses, and 300,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. In addition, the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors “Eds and Meds” program has transformed both Glassboro and Camden and created a strong demand for connections between the two campuses since 2000.
From a real estate perspective, there have been several studies performed by various organizations which estimate economic benefits to communities from passenger rail services. For example, the National Home Builder’s Association, Urban Land Institute, and National Association of Realtors shows nationally that housing values within a quarter mile of a new station increased by approximately 20%. In New Jersey, NJ Transit’s RiverLine and Hudson-Bergen Line communities experienced increased land values and economic redevelopment along these corridors.
Economic studies and evaluation the impacts/benefits from transit can be found at American Public Transportation Association, Railvolution.org, and other industry sources. A study commissioned by the Gloucester County Planning Division in 2012 also examined the potential benefits from the GCL.
In fact, studies show the benefits of transit-oriented development (TOD) last a lifetime. An AARP study of walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods in Northern Virginia found that people ages 75 and older took 20 percent more transit trips per week than their suburban counterparts. Another AARP study examines state policies that are needed to help older adults age in place including integrating land use, housing and transportation; and, providing more transportation choices, particularly for older adults who no longer drive.
For residents and employees alike, GCL will improve quality of life by providing transportation options, increased mobility, and environmental benefits. The new system will link the major employment centers of Glassboro and Camden (and major Metropolitan areas) and provide links to major cultural and entertainment venues.
Students will benefit because the GCL will link key institutions including Rowan University, Rutgers-Camden, Camden County College, Cooper Hospital, and others.
Workers will benefit because the GCL will provide access to the large employment base throughout the alignment and will offer commuters an alternative to driving. It also expands employment opportunities to those who are transit dependent.
The aging population will benefit because the GCL will provide mobility choices which are currently limited and will connect to a network of healthcare facilities as well as other establishments needed for everyday living.