Currently, the only PATH stop in Essex County is within Newark Penn Station. Now, some officials are seeking to extend the Newark-World Trade Center Line by 2.4 miles in the city. The line would run to a site alongside the existing Newark Liberty International Airport Station in Newark’s East Ward near the intersection of Frelinghuysen Avenue and Haynes Avenue in the Dayton neighborhood, close to the Elizabeth border and the airport itself.
Plans released in 2015 by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey show that at the station, the PATH track would lie west of the existing railroad tracks, and that the new complex could include a park-and-ride facility and transit-oriented-development. Currently, the surrounding area largely contains industrial sites and vacant lots.
The existing train station opened near the airport in 2001, and is connected to the airport terminals by the AirTrain Newark monorail system. It is currently served by select Amtrak trains and New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Lines. However, unlike the PATH system, New Jersey Transit trains do not operate 24 hours a day, and there is no service between roughly 2am and 5am. Plus, although the station is near Weequahic Park and the Frelinghuysen Avenue corridor, it can only be accessed using the AirTrain. Local residents have no access to the station within their own neighborhood.
The Port Authority’s board voted earlier this month to include $1.7 billion for the proposed expansion in its spending plan, according to the Associated Press, but did not set aside funds for replacing the aging AirTrain.
This potential expansion of the PATH has divided Democratic politicians in New Jersey, though most leaders in Newark are very enthusiastic about the potential.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka issued a statement on January 5th stating that “this project will reinforce Newark Airport’s potential as a major source of jobs for Newark and Elizabeth residents”, and that “it will benefit airport users by providing a one-seat connection to lower Manhattan for the first time as well as more frequent service from the airport to midtown Manhattan”. Baraka also mentioned that “it will give a major economic boost to an underdeveloped area of Newark” because “numerous hotel and industrial developers have expressed interest in building in the transit village that will be created near the new PATH station”. He vowed to work with state and federal officials to obtain other necessary funding for the project.
In 2015, Newark Councilman John Sharpe James said that the expansion is “sorely needed and it’s probably one of the most massive projects in this area”, according to NJ.com. Plus, a 2014 report from the Newark Housing Authority shows that “the proposed extension…holds the promise of improved access to jobs at the airport and other destinations on the PATH train line for Dayton Street residents”, and that “a shuttle between the Dayton Street neighborhood and the planned multimodal hub and transit-oriented development at Newark Liberty International Station would further assist residents in reaching local and regional job opportunities”. Since then, the Newark Municipal Council has adopted a resolution in support of the expansion.
However, New Jersey Senator Paul Sarlo, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg have criticized the proposal, according to NJTV News. NJ Spotlight reported that Sarlo said in September 2015 that “clearly a big winner in a PATH extension from Wall Street to Newark Airport is United Airlines”, referring to the company that controls over 70 percent of slots at the facility.
Former Port Authority Chairman David Samson said in a 2012 statement that “we need another mass-transit link to Newark Liberty International Airport, which served nearly 34 million passengers last year, so this initiative is of utmost importance”. In the time since, Samson has pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges in connection with “using his official authority to pressure the parent company of United…to institute a non-stop flight from Newark to South Carolina for his personal benefit”, according to the DOJ.
This potential expansion of the PATH in Newark comes at the same time as the Harrison Station, which is also on the Newark-World Trade Center Line, is in the process of being rehabilitated.
However, it was recently unclear whether the expansion of the PATH line will include an additional stop serving residents of Newark’s South Ward. Although NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line passes through the neighborhood, it currently does not have any rail stations, and the potential for new rapid transit service in the area excited many politicians. On January 17, POLITICO reports that officials from the Port Authority testified before the New Jersey Senate Legislative Oversight Committee in Trenton that having a stop in the ward would be too costly and complicated, and that it would no longer be part of the plan. This revelation enraged many leaders in the Newark area, and caused Mayor Baraka to issue a statement where he said in part that “the Port Authority will make a terrible mistake if it leaves out funding for a Newark South Ward PATH station from its $32 Billion capital plan”, and that “should funding not be in place by the Port Authority’s scheduled February meeting, I urge that the vote be delayed until funding comes together for the South Ward station. We have come too far to abandon this critical project at the last minute.”
The next day, however, Port Authority officials claimed that the proposed South Ward station was still planned, and that “this remains a key original element of the project”. POLITICO reports that the officials who testified meant to state that a station along South Street, several miles away, was no longer part of the proposal, and that there was confusion between the South Ward and South Street.