TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senate Legislative Oversight Chairman Bob Gordon highlighted the crucial benefits to the region of extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Englewood in testimony today before NJ Transit. The board held a public hearing on the project’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) today at the Crowne Plaza Englewood Hotel.
“Today marks a significant step forward in finally ensuring that the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail – which we in Bergen call the Bergen-Hudson Light Rail – will finally come to Bergen County,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “It has been a long battle. This extension should already have been completed, offering commuters in southeastern Bergen County a light rail link to Jersey City, the Gold Coast and to PATH, ferries and NJ Transit commuter options to New York, and giving Bergen County businesses a mass transit option to bring in workers and customers from growing Hudson County. That being said, today does represent a triumph.”
“The extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Englewood is a major step forward for Bergen County residents and businesses, housing values and our economic competitiveness. But it is more than that: It will mark the first significant expansion of New Jersey’s rail commuter network since completion of the highly successful Hudson portion of the light rail system six years ago,” said Senator Gordon (D-Bergen and Passaic). “That is critical because our entire region’s transportation system is overloaded, prone to breakdown and in a state of crisis.”
The senators noted that the Hoboken and New York Penn Station derailments and the breakdown of an NJ Transit train in the Hudson Tunnel demonstrated that a major dislocation anywhere in the system creates a commuter nightmare everywhere else — whether commuters get to work by rail, car, bus or even ferry. Expanding trans-Hudson capacity is critical, they said, as the hearings of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee have shown.
“The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail extension to Englewood will give commuters in southeast Bergen communities another option besides buses or driving to get to NJ Transit and PATH trains and ferries,” said Senator Gordon. “Just as important, it will provide critical new linkages for Bergen businesses and residents with Hudson County’s growing economy and workforce — a growth that has been fueled in no small part by light rail. The new Bergen County Northern Branch of the HBLR will boost housing values near the new rail links just as much as the Southern Branch did in Hudson. And the new park and ride facilities in Englewood and other towns on the new line guarantee that residents in other Bergen towns will benefit too.”
“The HBLR station terminus in Englewood and the park-and-ride facilities will be a boon for the local economy, Englewood Hospital and its employees,” Senator Weinberg said. “Mass transit is the key to our region’s future, and I am sure that someday the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail will be extended further north, as planners originally envisioned more than 20 years ago. I look forward to working with NJ Transit to put construction of this essential project on the fast track in the years ahead.”
The Senators said the Transportation Trust Fund legislation passed by the Legislature last year and signed into law provides a stable source of funding over the next eight years that will pump $2 billion a year in state dollars into not only repairing and upgrading our current roads, highways, rail and bus systems, but also into expanding mass transit options.
The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail is at the top of that list, as was seen by the allocation of $5 million from the $400 million TTF supplemental appropriation last month to ensure the completion of the EIS process this spring. Funding for the engineering work will be in next year’s TTF budget, and construction money as soon as the project is ready to go, the senators noted. Senators Weinberg and Gordon said they are also working with New Jersey’s congressional delegation to restore the federal New Starts funding that would provide federal matching funds for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and for the Gateway Rail Tunnels as well.