Study Background

The Dover & Rockaway Railroad (“D&R”) is an approximately six-mile long rail line that runs at grade level through the older neighborhood of mixed residential commercial and industrial uses in downtown Dover. The D&R currently connects to the NJ TRANSIT Morristown Line at the D&R Junction west of Dover. The overall project area is primarily located in the Town of Dover and Rockaway Borough, but includes small areas of Denville Township, Mine Hill Township, Randolph Township, Rockaway Township, Victory Gardens Borough, and Wharton Borough in Morris County.

This project aims to optimize freight movement and improve safety by reducing conflicts between the Dover & Rockaway Railroad (“D&R”) freight line and vehicular and pedestrian traffic especially in downtown Dover.

Existing Conditions

The project area is located primarily in the Town of Dover and Rockaway Borough in addition to Denville Township, Mine Hill Township, Randolph Township, Rockaway Township, Victory Gardens Borough, and Wharton Borough in Morris County. Established along the Rockaway River, the Town of Dover, in its past, had extensive industry especially mining within the project area as a result of its various transportation modes including rail and water. In 1986, with the collapse of the railroad industry, Morris County stepped in to buy the D&R in order to retain existing businesses and to attract future businesses on the line.

Project Area MAp

As described in a preceding study, Morris County Freight Infrastructure & Land Use Analysis, the D&R is an approximately six-mile long rail line that runs at grade level through the older neighborhood of mixed residential, commercial, and industrial uses in downtown Dover. The D&R currently connects to the NJ TRANSIT Morristown Line at the D&R Junction west of Dover. The D&R also runs parallel to the NJ TRANSIT alignment on the north side of the Rockaway River in downtown Dover. East of downtown Dover, the D&R turns north and runs along the Rockaway River through the center of Rockaway Borough before terminating to north of Interstate 80 (I-80). Though owned by Morris County, the D&R is operated by the Dover & Rockaway River Railroad (“DRRV”), which services five active customers along the D&R. Four customers are located in an industrial park just north of I-80 on the east side of Green Pond Road (County Route 513) and one customer located in the Town of Dover off Richards Avenue.

Issues

The D&R has 18 un-gated at-grade road crossings, of which 13 are within the Town of Dover and 5 are within the Township of Rockaway, many of which are in close proximity to one another. The close spacing of grade crossing and lack of gates poses significant safety issues especially for vehicular traffic. Drivers along the street do not expect to stop for a train due to the relative low frequency of railcar movement along the D&R, resulting in driver uncertainty and confusion.

The un-gated at-grade crossings also pose a safety issue for the walking public. The Town of Dover Transit Oriented Development Plan and Town Master Plan have identified the need for better pedestrian connections between neighborhoods and between those neighborhoods and the downtown business district. Although it is trespassing, residents use the existing rail alignment as a walking path between neighborhoods and between home and downtown. The same low frequency and unpredictable service schedule that impacts traffic movement also therefore presents a serious safety risk to pedestrians.

The existing alignment and freight movement along the D&R also affect the sense of place of the town by segmenting it into a northern section and a southern section. The Town of Dover’s goals are to enhance the cohesive sense of community within the town, which will improve the overall quality of life for residents and facilitate the delivery of services.

Eliminating grade crossings to improve safety as well as upgrading key rail corridors to accommodate 286K Plate F railcars is fully consistent with the goals and priorities set forth in the plans listed below which supports investments in the rail infrastructure within the NJTPA region and throughout New Jersey. Improvements to the rail service within the corridor would create opportunities for growing the existing rail served businesses and attracting new developments which would, as a result, increase the number of jobs as well as economic vitality of the region. Removing the rail freight traffic from downtown Dover would also promote freight as a good neighbor, reduce community impacts, and improve safety within the project area. The project is also expressly supported by the Town of Dover’s locally-adopted plans.

Estimated Project Schedule

  • This three year effort began in December 2016
  • Completed Draft Purpose & Need Statement, August 2018
  • Public Information Center #1, October 2018
  • Recommendation of Preliminary Preferred Alternative, August 2019
  • Public Information Center #2, October 2019
  • Selection of Preliminary Preferred Alternative, December 2019
  • Final Concept Development Report, February 2020