Friday, September 21, 2012

PA mulls PATH extension toward Newark Airport

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Years after rejecting recommendations from New Jersey rail advocates to extend PATH service directly to Newark Liberty International Airport, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Thursday announced its intent to study the idea of getting part of the way there, extending PATH service beyond its current terminus at Newark-Penn Station along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor to Newark Airport/Rail Station, connecting with the airport monorail system there.

PA officials in the past have noted, usually privately, that a PATH heavy-rail extension serving the airport's three main terminals is physically feasible, and would not conflict with the existing monorail service now linking the airport terminals, parking areas, and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. But the current proposal appears to bring PATH to the airport's figurative doorstep, not yet into the airport facilities themselves.

"Extending PATH to Newark Liberty International Airport has been discussed for a generation," Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni told New Jersey media Thursday. "We are now moving this process forward quickly to bring together our PATH system, Newark Liberty International Airport, and lower Manhattan. It is a regional win for all."

A PATH link with the airport, which is overseen by the PA, could offer direct service to the World Trade Center complex in downtown Manhattan, where the PA also is a powerful player. The extension also would offer airport riders a more direct service to Newark-Penn Station on the NEC, a major passenger intermodal point with New Jersey Transit rail, light rail, and bus services.

Advocates note those working on airport grounds would also benefit from the improved access to airport terminals. They also note that PATH's passenger capacity far exceeds that of connecting monorail service, setting up a potential passenger bottleneck for those transferring at Newark Airport/Rail Station.

The project would generate more than $600 million in design and construction work while adding permanent jobs for the link's operation, according to a press release. The PA gave no completion date for the study.

AirTrain Newark, the three-mile monorail line, opened in 1996 and was extended to the Northeast Corridor in 2000 with the opening of Newark Airport/Rail Station. The station is served by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.