Thursday, March 20, 2014

NJ mayors band together for light rail extension

Englewood, N.J., Mayor Frank Huttle III, along with 11 other mayors in the state have formed a mayors' commission to spearhead a plan to extend the northern portion of New Jersey Transit's Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Line through Bergen County.

 

The Mayors' Hudson/Bergen Light Rail Commission will be co-chaired by Huttle and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and is comprised of all of the mayors from Hudson and Bergen counties representing towns along the rail line and its proposed extension.

The commission includes Mayor Frank Huttle III of Englewood, Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City, Mayor James Rotundo of Palisades Park, Mayor Anthony Suarez of Ridgefield, Mayor Vincent Bellucci, Jr. of Fairview, Mayor Nicolas Sacco of North Bergen, Mayor Felix Roque of West New York, Mayor Brian Stack of Union City, Mayor Richard Turner of Weehawken, Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, Mayor John DeSimone of Leonia and Mayor Mark Smith of Bayonne.

The commission will be a single focused entity, which will unify each of the independent municipalities of the line together and speak with one voice. It will coordinate ground-up planning and consultation between the local government entities within each municipality, both counties and amongst stakeholders while providing a direct conduit to New Jersey Transit, the lead agency in the project.

The move comes on the heels of the city's recent adoption of a comprehensive new master plan that places a high priority on extending the light-rail line through Bergen County and ending in Englewood in order to foster economic development and smart growth in one of the most densely-populated areas of the state.

"Hudson and Bergen counties are fully developed and host mature economies," said Mayor Huttle. "For the most part, it's not feasible to build new roads, bridges or tunnels for people to get to work between Hudson, Bergen and New York City. New Jersey is still struggling to rebound from the recession and lags behind New York and Pennsylvania in job growth. We need improvements in our transportation infrastructure to grow and create jobs in New Jersey and improve the quality of life for area residents. Light rail will do just that."

The restoration of passenger rail service to the Northern Branch of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail Line has been under discussion for years. Huttle noted that Englewood has been working extensively with NJ Transit in recent years to hone the project to adequately meet the needs of the eastern Bergen County region it is intended to serve.

Chief among Englewood's concerns in a Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) created by NJ Transit were a potential loss of roughly 128 on-street parking spots in the city's central business district and the exclusion of a stop at Englewood Medical Center.

During the official comment period on the DEIS, Englewood proposed in a letter that the last stop on the line be Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and that there be two other stops in the city at Englewood Town Center and Route 4.

NJ Transit has agreed to restore the parking spaces, but under the DEIS the transit agency finally approved last May, proposed stations now include: 91st Street in North Bergen, Ridgefield, Palisades Park, Leonia, Englewood Route 4, Englewood Town Center and Englewood Hospital.

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