NJ TRANSIT Reactivates Proposal for Rail Service Between Hawthorne, Paterson, and Hackensack

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Passaic Bergen Passenger Service Restoration Project nj transit
Credit: NJ TRANSIT

After several years of inaction, plans are once again advancing to develop a new NJ TRANSIT train line on an existing railroad right-of-way through a densely populated corridor in Passaic and Bergen Counties, with a potential extension to Hudson County.

Jersey Digs has learned that the Newark-based State agency is resuming the Passaic-Bergen Passenger Service Restoration Project, which was initially proposed over a decade ago. The proposal calls for offering train service from the existing Main Line train station in Hawthorne and several neighborhoods in the eastern section of Paterson in Passaic County before crossing the Passaic River into Bergen County and passing through Elmwood Park, Saddle Brook, Rochelle Park, and Maywood, terminating on State Street in Hackensack, the county seat.

A NJ TRANSIT report from 2008 stated that seven intermediate stations are proposed, including 6th Avenue, Lafayette Street, Madison Avenue, 20th Avenue, and Vreeland Avenue in Paterson, Boulevard in Elmwood Park, and American Legion Drive near Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, and that construction could have begun as early as 2009. Eventually, rail service could be extended to the Tonnelle Avenue Station on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in North Bergen or another station on the upcoming Northern Branch light rail to offer “a seamless connection,” according to NJ TRANSIT records. At the time, the agency also reported that service would operate on an additional track every 15 to 30 minutes from 5:30am until midnight, and that all stations will be wheelchair accessible and will include surveillance cameras.

Diesel trains would operate on the railroad right-of-way that has stood in these communities for over a century. It is currently owned by Cooperstown, New York-based New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway, which operates freight service on the line. According to the Maywood Station Museum, trains have been operating along the route since the New Jersey Midland Railway laid the tracks in 1872, and privately operated passenger service ran alongside freight trains until 1966.

The City of Paterson’s Urban Supplement Report from the 2008 New Jersey Long-Range Transportation Plan stated that Passaic-Bergen “is considered a high priority project as it would provide an additional transportation option for approximately 300,000 people and 100,000 jobs located within one mile of the corridor,” adding that “the stops, particularly within Paterson, will create new opportunities for transit-oriented redevelopment, especially brownfield sites.”

Now, NJ TRANSIT has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for “to engage consultants to provide professional services for an update and assessment of the current conditions…of the proposed project region.” According to the RFP, “the intended outcome is to identify the most viable transportation plan to serve the communities in the project area.” The selected consultant would be responsible for roles such as designating a project manager, researching the purpose and need for the project, collecting data, preparing a feasibility statement, community engagement, researching alternatives, and estimating costs and ridership.

A pre-proposal conference meeting was held on Tuesday, August 8th, and proposals are due by September 6th. The Technical Evaluation Committee, which will include officials from NJ TRANSIT, Bergen County, Hudson County, and Passaic County, will look over all proposals, and a contract is expected to be awarded by January 2018.

The planned restoration of passenger service along the line has recently received support from many local officials. According to the Hackensack Daily Voice, resolutions in support of the project were passed by the municipal councils in Elmwood Park, Hackensack, Hawthorne, and Paterson.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I’m just wondering where they intend to get the money given the
    “tunnel emergency” they’re faced with, among other necessities.
    This is, at best, a bridge line, or local service actually, and
    has a huge investment requirement to get to customary standards
    for opening a passenger line, that is to say minimal. Basically
    it’s a one-track freight line with several busy grade crossings
    and no stations. The proposed stations are closely spaced in one
    corner of the serpentine route with no coverage elsewhere – not
    conductive to to the advantages of directness that is passenger
    rail’s forte. Also, if you’re going to do that there has to be a
    way to get people from the line to connecting service, and the
    Tonnelle Avenue HBLR idea is something that the average reasonable
    passenger just won’t bother with. Maybe they could invent a PASSENGER
    COMPACTOR for use at the connection with Pascack Valley, and for
    getting them on the NEC at Lautenberg. It’s difficult to see,
    given existing coverage in the area of the line, how this would
    improve service in light of the complications (of scheduling
    connections and infrastructure construction) that exist.

    Further – the above debilities and expenses are not something
    that Ivy League Flunkies in the planning department are completely
    unfamiliar with in promoting them to their obsequious and
    unanimous Board of Directors.

    Also, this is a freight line that goes all the way around to
    Pompton Junction before proceeding north along Rt. 23, traversing
    practically every commuter line in northern NJ in the process. As
    such, developing it – with eventual service direct to Manhattan –
    is counterproductive since there are other ways you could get
    there in about 1/4 the time. (Not to say the lower portion would
    not be somewhat useful if a direct connection were built.)

    • You raise many good points. At one end of the line, there would be a connection with the Hawthorne station on the Main Line – this new route will begin (or end) about 100 yards south Hawthorne station. It is unfortunate – due to community opposition – there are no stops in three towns lacking rail options: Rochelle Park, Maywood and Saddle Brook. That is a missed opportunity largely based on racism (this rail line connects two urban areas: Hackensack and Paterson). The fears are unfounded; there is a direct connection on the NJT Main Line from Paterson to Ridgewood just three stops north; the latter continues to be a desirable safe place with high property values. This proposal still remains a great idea provided good scheduling is implemented – all too often NJ Transit does not plan connections well (or they are undermined by delays). Public transportation will not be viable if inconvenient and slow.

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