James T. Raleigh (1934–2013)

It is with profound sadness that we note the passing of our Legislative Director, James T. Raleigh.

Jim was a scientist, a historian, and a great advocate.  He understood politics, and how officials make the decisions that affect our daily lives.  He made history through his brilliant strategies that helped to defeat New Jersey Transit’s plans to build a dead-end, deep-cavern terminal far below Midtown Manhattan—a plan that, at one time, only our organization believed would pose a detriment to the rail riders of our communities.  With Jim’s wisdom and advice, and with our hard work, we were able to build an alliance that kept the issue alive until Gov. Christie terminated the project in October 2010.

As an advocate for better transit, Jim cared deeply about our mobility. As a historian, he cared deeply about our heritage. As a scientist, he dedicated himself to the pursuit of truth.

Jim possessed an amazing understanding and knowledge of politics and the legislative process.  He had campaigned extensively in Trenton, and to a lesser extent in Washington, for better transit.  He made many statements and appearances at legislative hearings, community meetings, NJT Board meetings, and rail conferences.

Jim’s greatest achievement in advocacy was in planning and implementing the campaign to oppose the construction of a dead-end, deep-cavern terminal 20 stories below 34th St. in Midtown Manhattan, the result of changes in the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project.  With significant assistance from Coalition Technical Director Joseph M. Clift and other Coalition members, we were able to build an alliance with other rider advocacy organizations, convince some elected officials and media figures to oppose the project, and keep the issue alive until Gov. Chris Christie terminated the project in October 2010.

Along with George Haikalis, President of IRUM (Institute for Rational Urban Mobility) and Joe Clift, Jim later devised the “Penn Station First” plan to add new track and tunnel capacity into the existing Penn Station and extend service to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan through a phased-implementation approach. He was promoting this initiative when he ceased his advocacy activity, shortly before his death.

Jim was truly a rocket scientist. He spent most of his career at Bell Labs, including a long tour at NASA, where he worked as a systems engineer assigned by headquarters to ensure smooth communications in the Apollo Program.

After his retirement from Bell Labs, Jim focused his attention on his interest in history, particularly the American Revolution.  He served as President of the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield, a position that he held until his death.

It was because of that interest that he became concerned with rail-related matters.  He opposed the proposal to extend rail service to inland Ocean County through Monmouth Junction (“MOM Line”) because that proposed line would have gone through the grounds of Monmouth Battlefield, which he considered sacred.  He advocated for service to Ocean County through Matawan and Freehold, instead.

A mutual friend introduced me to him about 7 or 8 years ago, and I recruited him for the Lackawanna Coalition. He became interested in “big picture” issues such as Penn Station capacity and the best way to serve NJT’s rail riders. That is how he became involved in our “ARC” campaign.

His boundless energy, dedication to the causes he deemed important, and tireless pursuit of truth and fairness will serve as an inspiration to all of us for many years to come. We are, indeed, fortunate that he touched our lives.