"We now have an opportunity to
surround the trolley with a larger vision," David Ennis told
Acknowledging that his
advocacy of building such a system has been met with a grandiose
display of skepticism, he counters that the idea "isn't as much
pie-in-the-sky as a lot of people think." It is becoming less so
all the time, he added.
He said he is
heartened by a recent development which went unreported by the
media and largely unnoticed by the public. On successive
occasions seven and nine carloads of passengers took advantage
of an experimental arrangement and traveled by rail from New
York and Washington to Dover Downs to attend automobile races.
While those were single events of especial interest to devotees
of that sport, Ennis said the experience also has bolstered the
resolve of mid-state advocates of re-establishing the long
dormant passenger railroad link between Dover and Wilmington to
serve an increasing number of commuters going both ways.
Simultaneous with that is an effort by the Norfolk Southern
Railroad to have the Newark rail station, which serves the
Newark-Philadelphia commuter line, shifted a short distance to
the east to where the Delaware Spur meets the Amtrak main line.
The Delaware Spur, which long-time Delawarean's remember as the
Pennsylvania Railroad's old Delmarva line, runs between there
and Harrington, Del., and Salisbury, Md., with a link to the
Sussex County seacoast. Norfolk Southern uses it mainly to haul
coal to Conectiv's Indian River power station. Coupling
relocation of the Newark station with addition of a connection
between the north-south line and tracks to Wilmington -- the
existing connector points only toward Baltimore -- would provide
the necessary steel path linking Dover and Wilmington.
A separate but relatable development, Ennis said, is agreement
by the Wilmington Area Planning Council to conduct a feasibility
study into some kind of commuter rail service for employers in
the Delaware Route 141 highway corridor. The council is about to
put out a request for proposals to conduct such a study, which
grew out of the Tyler McConnell Bridge advisory committee
With the idea of laying a
trolley track along Market Street to link the Christina
Riverfront with Rodney Square having lost economic and political
favor, the project was removed earlier year from Delaware
Department of Transportation's long-range capital program and
has since been officially scrapped. DelDOT on Nov. 6 announced
that its study came up with higher capital cost and lower
passenger revenue projections than originally estimated.
Ennis noted that leaves a $6 million
federal planning grant for the trolley approved last year and an
additional $4 million in this fiscal year's budget with no place
to go except back to Washington. The Delaware legislator
suggests that money could be applied as seed money to look into
creating an integrated city-county transit loop.
He said his advocacy of a monorail as the transportation mode
for such a system should not be a stumbling block. That has been
used in several places in this country and abroad and others are
looking into it. He emphasized that he is not talking about a
Disney World-style tourist conveyance but practical 'people
movers' that could run both overhead and at ground level. For
the most part they would use existing rights of way.
Initial investment is high, Ennis acknowledged, but he said the
payoff is cost-effective in the long run. The more people --
especially but not only commuters -- enticed out of their cars,
the less the need for new highways. Although some bureaucratic
sleight of hand 'solved' the imminent air-pollution crisis this
year, air quality deadlines are looming as soon as 2005, he
noted. "What happens when you tell people they can't use their
backyard barbeques?" he said.
his still believes his original idea of building a monorail to
connect a new Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
commuter rail station in the Edgemoor area -- which Ennis
represents in the General Assembly -- to the Du Pont Co.
Experimental Station, roughly along the route of the Northern
Delaware Greenway, is a valid place to start. "I see that
as a pilot project that would demonstrate the viability of a
larger system," he said.
Corp.'s intention to relocate some 2,000 to 3,000 jobs from
Pennsylvania to its massive new buildings in the Bellevue
Corporate Center, not to mention the long heralded Astra Zeneca
expansion are just a couple of examples of the market potential
of what could be the first phase of a monorail system, Ennis
With obvious advantages for
transporting their workers, Ennis hopes to convince those and
the area's other major employers that private investment into a
system such as he proposes makes economic good sense.
Having advocated making provision of the monorail on the
parallel Tyler McConnell Bridge, he said that limiting the
system to the initial arc would prevent its realizing full
potential. A second phase would take it by way of Prices Corner
to the commuter rail station on the Newark-Philadelphia line at
Ennis said his thinking
has been expanded to include envisioning an eastern arc, which
would take the monorail by way of the New Castle County Airport
into Wilmington and thence along the Amtrak right of way to its
original starting point at Edgemoor.
City interests, meanwhile, could pursue DelDOT's proposal to
substitute either an ersatz trolley -- a bus built to look
something like a trolley but not running on rubber tires and not
on rails -- or a conventional bus liking the train station at
the Christina with the uptown business district and traveling as
far as the Miller Road Shopping Center, where there would be a
With that line, the
monorail and the Dover-Wilmington and Newark-Philadelphia rail
lines connected at several points, the area would have an
efficient and attractive alternative to highways and roads for a
large majority of its commuters.