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REACTIVATION OF NORTHERN BRANCH RAIL LINE MOVES FORWARD WITH NJ TRANSIT BOARD ACTION

Plan would provide passenger rail service within a shorter timeframe, at a lower cost, and enable future one-seat ride to Manhattan

June 8, 2005
NJT-05-060

NEWARK, NJ –
The NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors today approved environmental and planning work for reactivation of passenger service on the Northern Branch rail line using self-propelled “diesel multiple unit” (DMU) railcars. The plan would provide passenger rail service to residents along the line from Tenafly to North Bergen within a shorter timeframe and at a lower cost, while eventually delivering the ultimate commuting benefit: a one-seat ride into Midtown Manhattan.

The Northern Branch is a lightly used freight rail line owned by CSX Transportation that runs through Tenafly, Englewood, Leonia, Palisades Park, Ridgefield, Fairview and North Bergen.

In the first phase, DMU railcars would connect Northern Branch riders with Hudson-Bergen Light Rail service in North Bergen for access to the Hudson River waterfront, as well as connections to PATH trains and trans-Hudson ferries. The second phase of the plan calls for the Northern Branch to be linked to the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel deep within the Palisades, allowing for direct commuter rail service between Tenafly and Midtown Manhattan.

“We have seen time and time again that public transportation is a catalyst for economic development,” said Governor Richard J. Codey. “The reactivation of the Northern Branch will bolster our state’s regional competitiveness and improve our quality of life by providing improved access to jobs, as well as educational and recreational opportunities.”

"I was glad to have secured $1.1 million toward the costs of this initial planning stage for the Northern Branch Line, so I am delighted that the NJ TRANSIT Board is moving forward with this important work,” said Congressman Steven Rothman. “Providing passenger rail service to eastern Bergen County continues to be one of my highest priorities, and I am convinced that the DMU approach is the fastest and most practical solution to this transit problem. The challenge now will be finding the resources to make this all happen. Reauthorizing the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund is the most important element of the funding equation, but the federal government will be there too and I look forward to bringing home millions more dollars for the Northern Branch Line. I also look forward to working closely with all the interested parties to make our vision of safe, practical, affordable and comfortable passenger rail on the Northern Line a reality."

“This critical environmental work represents a major step toward delivering the convenient, direct rail service that Bergen County residents need and deserve,” said State Senator Paul A. Sarlo. “I look forward to the day when we will be able to board a train in Tenafly and arrive in Midtown Manhattan just a short time later.”

“Today, we are taking the first step toward expanding passenger rail service into eastern Bergen County,” said State Senator Joseph Coniglio. “I look forward to fostering an open dialog between residents, commuters and NJ TRANSIT as we develop passenger rail service that meets the real-world needs of all Bergen County residents.”

“When DMU passenger service begins on the Northern Branch, riders will have access, via a convenient connection, to the Hudson River waterfront, as well as trans-Hudson ferries and PATH trains,” said Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney. “The best news of all comes when the connection to the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel is made and Northern Branch riders can enjoy a one-seat ride all the way to Manhattan – no transfers, no connections.”

“With trans-Hudson vehicular crossings and the Port Authority Bus Terminal approaching capacity, the time has come to deliver a world-class rail transportation system for eastern Bergen County,” said Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman Jack Lettiere. “Using DMU technology will enable us to utilize existing rail infrastructure, helping to keep costs down, accelerate implementation and minimize impact on communities.”

“The real headline here is that activation of a commuter-rail-like service will ultimately allow us to connect the Northern Branch with the new Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel,” said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director George D. Warrington. “The benefits of a one-seat ride to Manhattan cannot be overstated.”

A disproportionately low 17 percent of Bergen County commuters use rail service, as compared to 60 percent in Union and nearly 50 percent in Morris, Middlesex and Essex counties. “These numbers bear witness to the fact that if people have a choice between efficient rail service and their own cars, they’ll take the train any day,” McNerney said. “And, that is a choice long denied eastern Bergen County residents.”

Under the plan, rail service would operate between Tenafly and a new station in North Bergen, where connections could be made to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system for trips to the Hudson River Waterfront. Residents along the Northern Branch would eventually benefit from a one-seat ride into Midtown Manhattan once the Northern Branch is connected with the new Trans-Hudson Express (THE) Tunnel deep under the Palisades.

Previous studies, which considered using light rail equipment on the line, generated concerns related to cost, property acquisition and coordination with the line’s owner, CSX Transportation, a freight railroad. Because light rail cannot operate concurrently with freight service, the early plans would have required installation of dedicated track or shifting freight operations to late night hours or weekends. Light rail may also require the installation of electric wires above the track, as well as supporting electrical substations.

Using DMU equipment that meets Federal Railroad Administration safety standards will enable NJ TRANSIT to share the existing rail infrastructure with freight service, eliminating the need to lay dedicated track. In addition, unlike some light rail vehicles, DMUs are self-powered, negating the need for overhead power lines. (DMUs use clean-burning engines that meet Federal Clean Air Act standards.)

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 752,600 daily trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 162 rail stations, 52 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.