Not a Lot of Support for Restoring Rail Service on the Octoraro Line

On this damp Cecil County evening, a crowd of about 50 people turned out at the monthly meeting of the Colora Civic Association to hear an advocacy group, Oxford Area Transit, discuss the idea of bringing rail service back to the old Octoraro Branch through Sylmar, Rising Sun, Colora, Liberty Grove, and Rowlandsville. The Oxford based group has been working for a couple of years to get full service restored to the line in Southern Chester County and this evening they traveled to Colora to pitch the idea of bringing the service on down the line to connect to the main corridor at Perryville. With growth in the area, the congestion on the northeast corridor, and the possible influx of new residents as a result of BRAC, they indicated that the old railroad could provide a valuable tool for the region to manage land development and growth in the corridor adjacent to the scenic line.

As the hours ticked by, the crowd had lots of questions for the representatives from Oxford Area Transit and overall there was not a lot of voiced support for restoring service. Some worried that by reopening the line, the county would use it as justification to allow more dense growth to occur in an area that should be protected from concentrated development. Others thought that the potential for growth would never justify opening the line, which caused an interesting discussion about BRAC. Several citizens made the point that BRAC wasn’t going to have much, if any, impact on the Greater Rising Sun and Colora area. On that assertion two people in the audience assured the crowd that BRAC was and is going to have and impact for people from Fort Monmouth are finding this to be a great place to settle.

Of course, Cecil County Government has a full marketing initiative to attract the relocating workers to our area.  They hired a full-time marketing person, who sponsors bus tours, fairs and such to get a portion of these relocating workers to move here.  In Elkton, the Mayor and Commissiones gave the Elkton Alliance and additional $10,000 to pitch the county seat to these families.

The discussion continued and at one point a representative from the nonprofit said this is the first time we’ve had such a reaction to our proposal since people generally welcome the concept. Finally  by 10:00 p.m. the crowd was just beginning to thin as the meeting had broken into informal discussions with the mass transit advocates answering questions in small circles.  Overall on this evening as a needed spring rain soaked the county there was not a lot of support for restoring rail service in northwestern Cecil, at least at this meeting.

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4 responses to “Not a Lot of Support for Restoring Rail Service on the Octoraro Line

  1. Someone Else Noticed

    Is there support from the local government for this project? I would think they would jump all over it especially economic development. Its a chance for the county to get the all important rail service connecting Cecil to the rest of the country (Better way of saying that is connecting DC/Balt to Wilmington/Phila) without having to continue to go through years of red tape from the government. If a private company wants to try this, I think its great for progress. I’m sure people at those towns where there are stations are going to be upset. The train can bring some highly undesirable people to their door step and I’m sure they won’t be happy about the noise, but like farms, the tracks were there long before those people moved there. Maybe some of the dormant towns on that line will enjoy a mini-boom again and towns we haven’t heard of in 80 years will once again be vibrant!…If only it went through Elkton…

  2. A good part of the meeting turned to the the inefficiencies of county government and how the commissioners are not doing what the people demand. (No one from county government was there).

    The advocacy group was logically making the point that in Chester County they’re going to use this rail corridor to manage their growth and concentrate it. When the citizens started on that issue, the speakers said many times how the citizens just get involved in the process, to shape the outcomes that local government deliveries. To that they got an earfull, from attendees about how it did work that way. I’m sure they really were surprized by this reaction and to what they heard, perceptually, about how government does or doesn’t work in Cecil County.

    There were also some assessments on growth that aren’t based in reality. They were in total denial about BRAC having any impact. I suspect the numbers are hyped for local promotion, but it will have an impact. Besides the county is spending considerable money (as is the town of Elkton) to get people to settle here. It will happen to some degree.

    That reaction to development probably surprised them too, since they were trying to use data. They were using planning to data to present their material and both are professionals. One is a reigstered railroad architect and the other is degreed biostatistician, so they’re comfortable with interpreting the data. I thought their numbers were generally reasonably interpretations of the data.

    As they said, they’ve never had such a reaction to their presentation. My thought going into the meeting was that they’d generally be welcomed and people would be supportive of the concept based on the history of the area and a romatic view of rail. Then those that were really thinking about it, would quesiton the economics, which is where I thought the argument would be. Gee that sure didn’t happen.

    So much news if someone would get out and report. Definitely says something, perhaps about our attitudes to government. By-the-way, I see those positions growing as I travel around the county. There was only one political candidate from previous elections in the room and she presented her arguments very professionally. I thought other want to be officials would have been there. They definitely have a grass-roots movement going there and it will affect voters.

  3. Mike, appreciate your thoughts and insight on the meeting. I’m sorry I missed it – there were both a Cecil County Charter Board and a Planning Commission meeting happening in Elkton at the same time as the meeting in Colora. Wish I could figure out how to clone myself!

    You are absolutely right – there are a lot of things going on in Cecil County. The Cecil County Commissioners are working on the County budget right now – that’s something that impacts every single one of us in terms of property taxes. I would encourage people to visit the County’s website (www.ccgov.org) to see the schedule of budget hearings and other meetings. The Commissioner’s emails and phone numbers are listed there too. There are tough decisions to be made about where to cut back in the next few weeks – let the Commissioners know what you think!

  4. Tari:

    Thanks for posting on Someone Noticed. These are important times for the county and thanks for reminding readers about the importance of monitoring the budget process for the upcoming fiscal year. As you say, these are tought times and people, whatever they think, need to speak up so the commissioners have their input to help them.

    I was completely surprised about how the railroad meeting went. There’s a lot of denial there about BRAC but there was even more skepticism about Cecil County government. *The attitude toward local government wasn’t as much of a surprise.)

    The speakers, from nearby Oxford, said to the crowd several times you just need to make your voice heard on taxes and planning. They will listen when enough people speak up they said. And to those types of comments they got push back from the crowd every time. I’m sure, that in addition to the surprise about the railroad, they were probably talking about our reaction about government on the way home.

    Tom was at the meeting and we talked over in a corner about the perceptions and the opportunities associated with planning for the 21st century in the county.

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