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UNION COUNTY LIGHT RAIL PROPOSAL TAKES A STEP FORWARD

NJ TRANSIT Board Approves Contract for Preparatory and Design Work of Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link's Elizabeth Segment

CONTACT: Michael Klufas (973-491-7078)

NEWARK, NJ, July 11, 2001 -- Work to advance a long-sought light rail line that will connect downtown Elizabeth with Newark International Airport will proceed following today's authorization by the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors of a Letter of Intent between NJ TRANSIT, Union County and Washington Group International (WGI).

The $4 million agreement allows WGI -- which has offices in Princeton -- to proceed with design and engineering work, cost estimates, real estate acquisition, environmental support tasks and other work that will help the three organizations make decisions regarding the future of the proposed 6-mile Elizabeth segment (MOS-3) of the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link (NERL).

The proposed route runs from midtown Elizabeth east into the citys Elizabethport section. That area has seen rapid economic development during the past decade with the opening of the Jersey Gardens Mall and the IKEA complex, as well as the addition of several office buildings. Plans are also underway to create a ferry terminal near the mall and build a hotel/office complex in the area.

"This light rail line will prove to be a shot in the arm not just for Union County residents, but for people from surrounding counties and cities," said NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman and State Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein. "It will reduce highway congestion, and provide new employment and shopping opportunities for thousands of people."

"As with several other NJ TRANSIT rail projects, this route will utilize historic right-of-ways previously used by commuter trains," said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Jeffrey A. Warsh. "We look forward to the day when Elizabeth residents can again board the train at the Central Rail Road of New Jersey's old Elizabeth station. This time, instead of providing connections to New York, the Elizabeth segment of NERL will transport customers to economic opportunities along New Jersey's waterfront."

"Hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents will benefit from this decision," said Union County Freeholder Daniel P. Sullivan of Elizabeth. "It will reduce traffic congestion by providing alternative transportation to Newark International Airport and Port Elizabeth, and it will bring new jobs and economic opportunities to this region. We would like to thank Acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco for placing the funds for this project in his budget."

The Elizabeth segment of NERL would begin at the Central Rail Road station in Elizabeth -- where connections would be available to NJ TRANSIT's Northeast Corridor trains -- and continue to the Elizabeth waterfront. It would then travel past the Jersey Gardens Mall and the IKEA complex to Newark International Airport.

The Elizabeth segment of NERL is currently scheduled for completion in 2005, the same year that the first operating segment of NERL -- a one-mile extension of the Newark City Subway between Penn and Broad Street Stations in Newark -- would open. In the future, an additional segment of NERL would be built between Newark Penn Station and Newark Airport, thus completing the NERL system.

The projected construction cost of the Elizabeth segment of NERL is $265 million. The initial operating segment of NERL -- between Newark Penn and Broad Street stations -- will cost $209 million to construct.

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing bus, rail and light rail services for 383,900 daily commuters on 240 bus routes, two light rail lines and 12 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 162 rail stations, 26 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.

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