In a decision that could allow for a linear park proposal to advance, a Virginia-based corporation that owns a former rail line between Essex County and Hudson County could soon sell the 8.6-mile corridor to a non-profit organization.
Norfolk Southern filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board on June 19 that calls for abandoning rail service along the old Boonton Line between Montclair and the Croxton section of Jersey City. The petition states that the company is seeking to sell the right-of-way “with the line’s rail, track materials, and bridges intact” to the Open Space Institute (OSI).
“The Open Space Institute, with the support of many local and regional partners, including the NJ Bike and Walk Coalition, is actively realizing the acquisition of nearly nine miles of abandoned trackbed and right-of-way, currently owned by Norfolk Southern Rail Corporation, for a greenway-related project in Essex and Hudson Counties,” a spokesperson for the institute explained in a statement to Jersey Digs.
Norfolk Southern’s petition noted that there has been no rail traffic on the old Boonton Line in more than a decade and claimed that “there is simply no traffic, or the potential for new traffic, on the line.” It added that “selling the line to the OSI and ultimately Hudson and Essex Counties will allow the rail corridor to become publicly owned.”
New Jersey Transit used to operate commuter rail service on the old Boonton Line, but ceased doing so in 2002 when the Montclair Connection opened.
Jersey Digs previously reported on the proposed greenway project back in 2018. The walk and bike pathway, which has been referred to as the “Essex/Hudson Greenway” and the “Ice & Iron Greenway,” would connect the Meadowlands with neighborhoods in communities such as Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Newark’s North Ward, and Kearny. It is not yet clear if the greenway would be built in phases or what impact the Hackensack River swing bridge along the route in Hudson County will have on the plans.
“We continue to get closer to the reality of a shared-use linear park that would improve the public’s access to nature, enhance transportation options and benefit all of the communities along its route,” the Open Space Institute’s statement mentioned. “The current public health emergency has intervened in this process but we are optimistic that this vision will be realized.”