A planned commuter rail line from Camden to Glassboro won't qualify for federal transit funds, leaving state taxpayers with the full $1.3 billion bill.
But Delaware River Port Authority officials said Wednesday the project is South Jersey's top transportation priority and the state is committed to seeing the line is built.
The plan calls for diesel light-rail trains to run 18 miles alongside an existing Conrail freight line to serve Glassboro, Pitman, Mantua, Wenonah, Woodbury, Deptford, West Deptford, Westville, Bellmawr, Brooklawn, Gloucester City and Camden.
DRPA officials said the lack of federal funding would create one advantage: it would allow the rail line to be built more quickly.
If the rail line gets funding and environmental approvals, it could be operational as far as Woodbury in five years and to Glassboro and Rowan University in six to 10.
The proposed rail line didn't meet Federal Transit Administration requirements for ridership, cost-effectiveness and commuter time-savings, said John Matheussen, DRPA chief executive.
"It's extremely difficult to meet the marks they put down," Matheussen told the DRPA board Wednesday. He said only about two of 100 projects, nationally, get money through the FTA's "New Starts" program.
"Going forward, it looks like we're going to be funding this locally," he said.
DRPA officials remained hopeful the project could get other federal money, if the state's congressional delegation can get special "earmark" legislation passed. And FTA federal criteria could change under the Obama administration, they said.