June 19, 2007

Who really will benefit from the freight rail project?

Submitted by:
Richard Lenihan

Instead of spending public funds on safety and environmental assessments and measures, both Union County and State officials have decided that the citizens of Union County would be satisfied with a "vapor report" on the so-called economic benefits of restoring the M&E Freight Rail.

In assessing economic benefits, the Union County Report blows bubbles into the wind. The Union County Office of Economic Development bases its report on 10 potential customers of the M&E Freight haulers. These so-called customers remain nameless because this information is not in the public domain. Yet, public funds given to the M&E have already passed $11.62 million according to this May 10, 2007, report.

The success of the project Is based on, in the words of the report, "establishment of businesses' confidence in the railroads' success, viability, and staying power." Why should a business have confidence in a small, privately-owned freight company, subsidized by public funds, without public accountability? According to the UC report, "all information regarding rail operations and maintenance costs, as well as contractual rates with shipping companies and customers are proprietary to the railroad operator." Secrecy may work in private businesses but is ethically unacceptable when the private business is totally subsidized by public funds for this restoration of rails.

Even more outrageous than the "information" projected in this report is the fact that the State and the County are not demanding safety and environmental studies from Gordon Fuller, M&E Operating Officer, even though he could have spent some of the public funds provided to him for this purpose.

On September 22, 2005, I was present in an auditorium filled with Roselle residents when Gordon Fuller said safety studies were done and that those reports would be sent to Mayor Garrett Smith. As of this date, safety, environmental, or quality of life reports have not been sent to the Mayor, nor to the Roselle Borough Engineer who has more recently requested these documents.

Why should a business have confidence in the M&E Freight Rail whose marketing specialty is avoiding disclosure, saying one thing and doing another?

Why should citizens have confidence in the Union County officials who have pumped millions of dollars into this freight rail project and then "pass the buck" on safety, environment, and quality of life issues?

Anyone wishing to read the UC Economic Assessment Report of 5/10/2007 can see it by clicking HERE.

Anyone wishing to read the 5/9/2002 contract between M&E and Union County can see it by clicking HERE.

Anyone wishing to read the Envrionmental Justice Petition for Roselle can see it by clicking HERE.

Read the documents for yourself and see who really will benefit from this freight rail project and where our tax dollars are going.