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Public/Private Partnership to Improve Trans-Hudson Transportation Options

CONTACT: Penny Bassett Hackett (973-491-7078)

NEWARK, NJ, July 11, 2001 -- The NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors and members of the public today were presented with a comprehensive overview of the proposed Weehawken Ferry Terminal public/private partnership project -- which will be served by NJ TRANSITs Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system and NY Waterways ferry service on the Hudson River waterfront within the next five years.

The project is one of five approved by the New Jersey Department of Transportation under the Public/Private Partnership Act of 1997, which provides funding for demonstration projects involving the private sector that enhance public transportation and related services in New Jersey. The ferry terminal will allow NY Waterways to double its existing trans-Hudson ferry service between New Jersey and New York over the next ten years and ease traffic congestion at New Jersey's existing Hudson River crossings, which are at or near capacity.

"As the senior New Jersey Member on the House Transportation Committee, I was pleased to help in this unprecedented effort by delivering more than $11 million to build the new Weehawken Terminal and provide continued funding for the completion of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail," said U.S. Congressman Robert Menendez. "Our work to take cars off the streets and to provide our citizens with economic empowerment through an affordable and integrated transportation network will improve the quality of life for New Jerseyans throughout the region."

"This effort will combine the expertise and resources of the State of New Jersey and NY Waterways to quickly deliver a project that improves regional mobility and encourages economic development along the Hudson River waterfront," said NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman and State Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein. "Thanks to the support of Acting Governor DiFrancesco, this public/private partnership will be crucial in addressing New Jersey's current and future growth in commuter trips across the Hudson River."

"Our rail and bus service to and from midtown Manhattan is already near capacity, particularly during rush hour," said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Jeffrey A. Warsh. "Visionary projects like this create new partnerships between the public and private sectors that will improve the quality of life and property values for thousands of New Jersey residents."

"Thanks to Acting Governor DiFrancesco, Commissioner Weinstein and NJ Transit Executive Director Warsh, this innovative public-private partnership will offer thousands of commuters a safe, reliable, fast and environmentally-friendly alternative to the area's overburdened bridges and tunnels," said NY Waterways President Arthur E. Imperatore, Jr., whose company presently transports 32,000 people per day (eight million passengers per year) via 11 routes from New Jersey to Manhattan. "This is the wave of the future, and we expect the number of ferry commuters between Weehawken and Manhattan to double over the next 10 years."

Today's presentation paves the way for future public meetings and input on the project -- including an upcoming Weehawken Planning Board meeting and a joint public hearing conducted by State and Federal agencies.

"I'm pleased that Commissioner Weinstein, Executive Director Warsh and NJ TRANSIT are committed to listening to local input on this project," said Weehawken Mayor Richard F. Turner. "This ferry terminal would make Weehawken one of the truly intermodal communities for mass transit and would benefit our residents while also helping alleviate traffic congestion and allowing commuters from Weehawken and nearby communities to more easily access the waterfront and reach their job destinations."

The new ferry terminal building -- which will replace an undersized and aging terminal at the site -- will house NY Waterways ferry service from Weehawken to several destinations in New York. The ferry terminal -- which is currently proposed as a three-story structure and 26,000 square-feet in space -- will include a waiting area, retail space and docking capabilities for four ferry boats.

The project also includes an 800-foot waterfront pedestrian esplanade, providing scenic and convenient pedestrian access to the new terminal. Additionally, the Town of Weehawken is working closely with Romulus Development Corp. -- the owner of the land where the terminal will be built -- and Port Imperial South LLC Master Plan to encourage transit-friendly economic development around the terminal.

The Board of Directors today authorized NJ TRANSIT to award a $2.4 million contract to the most responsive and responsible proposer to oversee the proposed construction of the ferry terminal. A construction contract for the ferry terminal will be advertised for bid next spring, after the public has an opportunity to comment on the project.

This past March, the Board authorized a letter of agreement with New York Waterways ferry service and Romulus for the construction of the terminal building and the long-term lease of the facility. The partnership agreement was approved last month by the Joint Budget Oversight Committee of the New Jersey Legislature.

In exchange for constructing the terminal, the State of New Jersey will receive a lease fee from NY Waterways and Romulus Development Corp. based on the number of ferry passengers carried on the Weehawken ferry service. The cost of the project is not to exceed $25 million. The Federal government would provide 83 percent of the funding; the balance would be provided by the State Transportation Trust Fund or other State funds.

The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Weehawken station is scheduled to open in 2003, prior to the opening of the ferry terminal in winter 2004.

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.