Thursday, May 09, 2013

NJT says Bergen County will get LRT

Written by  Douglas John Bowen, Managing Editor
Three decades after state planners and rail activists envisioned it, New Jersey Transit’s Board of Directors on May 8 officially recommended that the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit system finally be extended into Bergen County—choosing LRT over other options, and ending a decade-plus political struggle over modes.

The recommendation would add roughly 10 miles of right-of-way north of HBLRT's current terminus in North Bergen, N.J.—Hudson County—ending in Englewood, N.J. Anti-rail resistance from the borough of Tenafly, just north of Englewood, resulted in a truncated recommendation.

Though celebrating the progress, New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers Vice President Jack May expressed concern over the prolonged process in growing the LRT line, now handling roughly 44,000 riders per weekday.

“While we are elated that this project is moving forward, we have heard mention of a two-year, or possibly three-year, process just to complete the FEIS,” May said to the NJT Board at its meeting in Newark, referring to the Final Environmental Impact Statement. “And after that, we will have to wait for a Record of Decision before bids can be advertised for detailed engineering. Is that true?”

Bergen County is the Garden State’s most populous county, currently served by three NJ Transit passenger rail lines.

Englewood officials also lauded the decision, saying LRT’s arrival would spur economic development and offer intrastate access to jobs in Hudson County. “Englewood and Tenafly are not the same town,” Englewood Economic Development Corp. Chairman Adam Brown said to local media. “We’re not a town looking to stay the same; we’re a town that strives.”

Brown cited Englewood’s working-class base, its namesake hospital generating jobs for many Hudson County residents, and its large downtown, including a performing arts center, as factors favoring LRT.