Opinion: Power Line Project, NJ Transit Trains Are Dangerous Mix

March 9, 2017
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CommentaryBy Anthony Cooper |

JCP&L’s proposed Monmouth County Reliability Project (MCRP) would install an air-insulated, 230,000 volt transmission line along ten miles of NJ Transit’s high-speed train tracks from Aberdeen through Hazlet, Holmdel and Middletown to Red Bank in a dangerous mix that threatens the property and physical safety of many people living in this densely populated area, as well as the safety of passengers and employees on NJ Transit’s trains.

About 8 a.m. on December 4, 2016, in a sparsely populated area of Ohio east of Toledo, 3 cars of a slow-moving 187 car CSX freight train derailed and crashed into an electrical tower supporting high-voltage power lines while missing two nearby and occupied buildings. But JCP&L’s proposed MCRP would cram its tall electrical towers supporting 230,000 volt wires into the most heavily populated areas of five towns and the same 100-foot wide strip now holding two tracks used by NJ Transit’s high-speed commuter trains. Though the minimum recommended width for containing a 230,000 volt line on its center is 150 feet, JCP&L’s MCRP would squeeze its proposed 230,0000 volt line into the margins left over from the two existing NJ Transit tracks.

JCP&L’s MCRP shows an unprecedented and reckless disregard for public safety. Air-insulated, high-voltage transmission lines are used in sparsely populated areas, but to safeguard the public from an array of associated hazards, high-voltage transmission lines in densely populated areas are always enclosed in conduit that is either buried below ground or contained within an above-ground berm. For example, in Bergen County’s Borough of Ramsey, the Rockland Electric Company operates a high-voltage transmission line that is buried under the Franklin Turnpike.

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JCP&L ‘s MCRP would expose many residential and commuting members of the public to unwarranted risks merely to add a third redundant transmission line into its Red Bank Substation, even though the two existing transmission lines into that Substation have a demonstrated reliability of 99.99% over the past 20 years, with only two equipment failures of 4 to 5 hours each. JCP&L’s MCRP cannot be not justified on the basis of either safety or reliability.

Anthony Cooper of Holmdel is the vice president of Citizens for Informed Land Use (CILU) 

This article was first published in the March 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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