Sept./Oct. Report from the Chair

From our September/October 2010 Railgram newsletter 
Every major decision New Jersey Transit makes affects transit riders everywhere in New Jersey.  That will be our topic of discussion as the New Jersey Transit Board and the Lackawanna Coalition “take our shows on the road” to Atlantic City on Sept. 10.
There are a number of projects under discussion that would expand NJT’s rail network, so it can serve riders better.  One is in South Jersey: a transfer station between the Atlantic City Rail Line (which goes to Philadelphia) and the River Line, a light rail line between Trenton and Camden.  Funding has been approved for the new station, but a colleague of ours in South Jersey reports that construction has not yet gotten under way.  Also, NJT reportedly will not kick in its share of funds on new light rail service between Camden and Glassboro,
which is being funded largely by the Delaware River Port Authority.
New projects around the state are not going forward.  The extension of light rail in Bayonne to Eighth Street, one stop from the current terminal at Twenty-Second Street, is not progressing, either.  The Lackawanna Cutoff Project to restore service to the Pocono Region and Scranton, which the Lackawanna Coalition strongly supports, still appears to be 6 years off, just as it has been for the past 10 years.  Extension of the Raritan Valley Line to Phillipsburg, West Trenton, and Flemington are stalled at the talking stage.  So is rail service to inland Ocean County.  So is the Northern Branch Light Rail extension in northern Bergen County.  There are other projects, too.
The reason is simple. The proposed deep-cavern terminal far below 34th Street in Manhattan is sucking up all available capital funding, including the purchase of rail cars and locomotives that NJT management claims will be necessary to operate into the proposed deep cavern.  This is not a temporary situation; it would be well into the decade of the 2020s before NJT has the money to build anything else of any consequence that would improve transportation for New Jersey’s transit riders, especially on rail.
That is why it is so critical that NJT change direction and work with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Amtrak to build an enhanced Moynihan/Penn Station First.  Between New Jersey, New York and Amtrak, there is enough money available to build a station that would have enough train capacity that a second terminal (NJT deep-cavern proposal) and a third one (Amtrak “780” proposal) would be needed.  NJT rail riders would benefit from easy connections with other lines, and expansion to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan is feasible in the foreseeable future. New Jersey would also save $3 billion by scrapping the deep-cavern terminal plan.
We are aware that New Jersey does not have money for its share of the cost of the proposed deep cavern.  This means that New Jersey certainly does not have enough money to build anything else.  If you use transit anywhere in New Jersey, you will not see any capital improvements for many years if the proposed deep-cavern terminal is built.  We urge you to make your voice heard now.  Join us in calling for an enhanced Moynihan/Penn Station First, so NJT will have money to build projects we all need and your transit can be improved in the future.