SJPC announced the approval of a $6 million Rail Freight Assistance Grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) earlier this year\ to go towards improvements to facilitate and expand rail cargo transportation at the Joseph A. Balzano Marine Terminal in Camden by increasing the efficiency of load times and nearly tripling the capacity of moving rail cargo.
The improvements provide an opportunity to expand the local economy as crucial products like steel, cocoa beans, wood, and project cargo will get to businesses and consumers in the region more easily while also providing job opportunities for residents.
“This grant is a big win for South Jersey residents and is aligned with our mission of expanding the economy in South Jersey and providing job opportunities by increasing cargo and maritime activity,” said Executive Director & CEO of SJPC, Andrew Saporito. “We are grateful to NJDOT for recognizing the potential and providing the funding to increase our rail capacity at Balzano Marine Terminal.”
SJPC facilities play a significant role within the Delaware River complex – a transportation node with proximity to the federal shipping channel and three Class 1A railways. SJPC facilities are open to the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean and receive ships moving four million tons of breakbulk, bulk, and containerized cargo annually.
“This improvement to the rail system will support and promote economic activity within New Jersey, as well as increasing the number of businesses served. It will also increase employment both directly on-site and indirectly through freight carriers associated with the port,” says Saporito.
The projects covered by the grant include expanding the port’s ability to facilitate rail cargo transportation by completely removing and replacing 7,200 feet of obsolete rail and installing three turnouts, as well as other efficiency adjustments, which allow cargo transportation access to the interior of the port. Because of the increase in efficiency of load times, it is estimated that allowing Conrail access to the inside of the port would nearly triple the capacity of rail cargo transportation.
SJPC is linked to the Port of Philadelphia – a designated strategic military port – through common waterways, economic contributions to the region, and a network of bridges, roads, rails, and waterfront attractions. The Balzano Marine Terminal, one of SJPC’s facilities, is a major gateway of commerce and trade to the Northeast US as well as the Delaware Valley Region. While the facility features both rail and highway connections, there are critical improvements needed for the infrastructure of the rail connections in particular.
“The rail lines at the terminal require repair and expansion as present conditions are inadequate to service the needs of the port,” said Richard A. Alaimo, Chairman of SJPC. “Three leading rail freight operators – CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Conrail – have rail connections that service this terminal. These carriers are no longer willing to enter the terminal because of these conditions and are relegated to track along the very fringes of the property. As a result, the infrastructure used to quickly and efficiently move cargo is compromised.”
As the terminal is located within a Federal Opportunity Zone, the increased labor demand can provide opportunities for residents. Higher employment in this area will have a positive impact on the community and will help to drive local investment projects for other Opportunity Zone investors and increase indirect jobs associated with both the port and the community. Additionally, this project will increase throughput which will have a significant regional impact in that it creates an incentive to move more cargo through New Jersey.