$3.6M to help put Bergen rail project on the fast track
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
BY ANA M. ALAYA
NJ Transit has received $3.6 million in federal funding to conduct engineering and environmental studies for the third phase of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line project.
Steve Santoro, head of capital programs for NJ Transit, said the money will allow the agency to get the 11-mile Northern Branch on an "aggressive" schedule.
That means construction of the Northern Branch --on which diesel trains would run from Tenafly to North Bergen -- could begin by 2008 and be completed by 2011, officials said.
"This money will help to complete the initial design," said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which approved the federal funds.
Seven months ago, NJ Transit scrapped its decade-old plan to extend the light-rail line deep into Bergen County and decided instead to run diesel trains along the route. That decision cut the projected cost of the project in half, to $500 million, and reduced the estimated completion time by several years, Rothman said.
"The Northern Branch has always been the most problematic," Rothman said. "We had to come up with a new idea."
The Northern Branch would run from Tenafly through Englewood, Leonia, Palisades Park, Ridgefield and Fairview before ending in North Bergen. From North Bergen, riders could switch to a light-rail line that would take them to the Jersey City waterfront, where they could take ferries or trains to New York City and other points in New Jersey.
"This will become part of a seamless web of rail transportation we want to provide in New Jersey," Rothman said yesterday during a news conference in Englewood to announce the new funding. "The line will offer a much easier commute between New York and New Jersey, relieve traffic on the George Washington Bridge and provide opportunities for economic development throughout the corridor."
Later this month, NJ Transit plans to open stations at Bergenline Avenue in Union City and Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen, completing the first two phases of the light-rail line, a $2.2 billion project that runs 19.1 miles through Hudson County.
New Jersey Transit officials expect 7,500 trips a day on the Northern Branch.
The existing line in Hudson County has 24,000 trips a day.