Bronx Boxcars

New York borough shifts waste transit from road to rail.

RECOGNIZING THAT U.S. ROADWAYS are becoming ever more clogged, creating traffic hassles and increasing pollution, a New York City borough has accepted a pre-existing plan to reduce the number of garbage trucks on the road. Instead, the Bronx, a community of 1.3 million people, will soon ship all of its waste by rail. Officials hope that the switch will not only reduce traffic, but also improve the borough's air quality.

The Bronx is the latest New York borough to adopt the city's Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP), which aims to reduce truck traffic and pollution while placing equal responsibility on each borough with regard to trash and recycling. “Getting truck traffic off of city streets is a hallmark of our Solid Waste Management Plan and residents across the Bronx will benefit from this important change,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. Officials signed a 20-year contract with Waste Management of New York worth $1 billion, under which the company will transport municipal and residential waste by rail to its disposal site.

“This latest contract represents an important step as the city continues to implement the SWMP and responsibly manages its household refuse,” said New York City Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty in a press release. “[This] will significantly reduce the amount of truck traffic through Bronx streets and will improve the borough's air quality.”

Only the second borough to adopt the plan (Staten Island became the first to transport residential waste by rail in May), the Bronx will transport the 2,100 tons of residential and municipal waste that it generates each day to the Harlem River Yard. Once the refuse arrives at this location, it will be transported out of state by rail. Prior to the contract, the borough transported its waste to private transfer stations and later hauled it out of state using trucks on highways and interstates.

The shift to rail is part of Bloomberg's sprawling 20-year plan to overhaul the way solid waste is handled in New York, approved in July 2006. Under the plan, New York will build four marine transfer stations — two in Brooklyn and one in Queens and Manhattan's Upper East Side — at an estimated $360 million and also use six privately owned rail transfer stations in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Ninety percent of residential waste will be exported by rail or barge. The city has claimed that the actions will reduce sanitation truck mileage by 2.7 million miles per year and tractor trailer truck mileage by 3 million miles.

“Since the SWMP was overwhelmingly adopted by the City Council, implementation has been swift,” said Bloomberg. “Soon the entire city will join the Bronx and Staten Island by disposing of waste in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.”