NORTH BERGEN, N.J. – The FTA, with NJ Transit, announced it will rescind a NOI to prepare an EIS for restoration of rail service in Northern Branch Corridor Project.
The FTA, along with NJ Transit, issued a notice to announce that it is rescinding a “2007 Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a previous proposal for the Restoration of Rail Service in the Northern Branch Corridor Project from North Bergen to Englewood in Hudson and Bergen Counties, New Jersey.”
In October of 2007, the FTA and NJ Transit published a notice of intent with the Federal Register “to prepare an EIS for the proposed Northern Branch Project.” The EIS was to study passenger service restoration on the branch “between North Bergen, Hudson County, and Englewood, Bergen County.”
After reviewing the Project, the FTA has rescinded the notice of intent because of changes to the project design and “environmental impacts in the following areas: floodplains, stormwater management, cultural resources, hazardous materials, traffic and parking, and air quality, all of which have occurred since 2007.”
Northjersey.com reports that the move from the FTA has caused lawmakers to be “furious” over the notice as there is now another delay in the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail plan into Bergen County. The project is now delayed “at least two more years” after the 2007 NOI was rescinded Monday. One lawmaker, Assemblywoman Shama Haider, commented “We are asking them to build a few miles of railroad extension to serve 100,000 commuters in our district, in Bergen County – how long as the United States been building railroads? Nearly 200 years. . . Studies were done way back when and done again and updated again. . . NJ Transit has done [an] update [as asked by the FTA], [it] pushed the time further. . . We’ve gone through hoops to get them all the information they have.”
According to north jersey.com, Haider has been working on the expansion into Bergen since 2021 and has been “sending letters to NJ Transit officials for updates and calling into the agency’s monthly board meetings to keep the project top-of-mind.”
Other officials in Bergen County also commented their frustration and that “New Jersey Transit, the Federal Transit Administration, and others [should] step up and commit the immediate funding required to keep this project on track. . . We cannot afford to let bureaucracy and indecision derail the progress that our residents need.”
The decision to rescind the NOI is surprising because it was only earlier this year that “NJ Transit officials assured lawmakers inquiring about the project that the agency planned to send up dated information later this year for its first environmental report, first submitted to the FTA in 2018.” Before then, in April, the FTA had said it paused the environmental review because there was no “financial commitment.”
Josh Gottheimer, the representative for the district that would be the last stop on the Bergen extension, called the move from the FTA a “double standard” and that “NJ Transit already submitted a full environmental impact statement, but now, at the last minute, the USDOT wants them to do it again.” The “double standard” refers to a move proposed by the MTA that would charge drivers that “enter Manhattan below 60th Street.” A move that was approved without an environmental review “despite preliminary findings showing that it will increase carcinogen-filled air pollution in Jersey.”
Now, the plans and construction timelines for the light rail extension into Bergen County will need to be developed once again. However, the original “supplemental draft environmental impact statement is still relevant” and can be referred to as they start over. The process, as mentioned earlier, could take about two years, and it “will reevaluate existing conditions, including flood plain and resiliency mitigation, project alignment and public engagement,” according to NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith.