MORRISTOWN, NJ – The company that has managed local freight rail service through Roxbury for three decades will be replaced at the end of June, Morris County announced today.

In a statement, the Morris County freeholders said they decided to oust the Morristown & Erie Railway (M&E) as the operator of the county-owned Dover & Rockaway, High Bridge Branch and Chester Branch rail lines. Starting in July, the rail service on those lines will be managed by Dover & Rockaway River Railroad (D&R), said the county.

The Chester Branch and High Bridge Branch pass through Roxbury.

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M&E “has been the sole operator of the county’s rail system since the county took ownership of the lines some 30 years ago,” said the statement. It said the county opted to go with Dover & Rockaway River Railroad “based on rail management experience and rail marketing potential.”

M&E came under criticism from local officials last year when it began storing rail cars filled with liquefied butane and propane on a siding in Mount Olive. The practice resulted in a lawsuit by the county against M&E that resulted in an agreement that allowed the tanker storage if the railroad took certain safety measures.

In its Thursday statement, the county said, “As part of its agreement with Morris County, D&R will not store hazardous materials on the county’s rail lines.”

Roxbury officials were also unhappy when the M&E used a siding in Kenvil last year to park unsightly former AMTRAK mail and freight cars it was using for storage

It also said both M&E and D&R submitted proposals in April. The proposals were reviewed by a county committee “which determined unanimously in favor of Dover & Rockaway” for a 5-year-long deal.

The committee considered factors including marketing, maintenance and accident notification plans as well as “an ability to provide rail services; project management and professional qualifications; and past experience and resources, among others,” the county said.

The D&R operates the Black River Railroad and the Belvidere & Delaware River Railway. The county said the company “has grown business on those lines over the past 15 years, and has marketing relationships with Norfolk Southern, CSX and Union Pacific.”

The county said D&R pledged to have its marketing team meet with “every rail-adjacent business on the county’s rail lines, even those without a rail siding” to discuss rail service.