Northern Branch Corridor Project

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Northern Branch
 Proposed Corridor Project 
CSX Northern Branch
Englewood Hospital
Englewood Town Center
Englewood Route 4
Leonia
Palisades Park
Ridgefield
NYS&W Edgewater Branch
91st Street
CSX River Subdivision &
New York, Susquehanna & Western
CSX North Bergen Yard
Conrail Northern Branch &
New York, Susquehanna & Western
Tonnelle Avenue
Hudson–Bergen Light Rail

The Northern Branch Corridor Project is a planned extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) from its northern terminus into eastern Bergen County, New Jersey initially proposed in 2001. While many studies have been conducted as of May 2013 construction funding for the New Jersey Transit (NJT) line has not been identified. If built, the new service would use the right-of-way of the Northern Branch on which the Erie Lackawanna Railroad ran passenger service until October 3, 1966[1][2] and is currently a lightly used, stub-ended freight rail line owned by CSX Transportation. The Northern Branch Corridor is at the foot of the west side of the Hudson Palisades in the Hackensack River valley, running for much of its length parallel to Overpeck Creek. After mixed reactions and extensive community input to a draft environmental impact statement, it was decided in 2013 to terminate the line at the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. A separately conceived and funded bridge necessary for operation of the system is partially built.

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail[edit]

The current terminus is a park and ride on Tonnelle Avenue
Light rail will pass under CSX River Line at 83rd Street in Babbitt, North Bergen

Original proposals for the HBLR called for a terminus at the New Jersey Turnpike Vince Lombardi Park-and-Ride in Ridgefield in Bergen County.[3] Despite its name, it currently operates only in Hudson County. Service began its initial operating segment in April 2000, expanded in phases during the next decade, and was completed with the opening of its southern terminus on January 31, 2011. The line generally runs parallel to the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay, while its western branch and its northern end and travel through the lower Hudson Palisades. HBLR has twenty-four stations along a total trackage length of just over 21 miles (34 km) and serves over 40,000 weekday passengers. From it southern terminus at 8th Street in Bayonne the HBLR travels through Jersey City, Hoboken, and North Hudson to its current northern terminus at Tonnelle Avenue. The balloon loop allowing for reversal of direction is immediately adjacent to the proposed right of way at the North Bergen Yard.

History[edit]

Passenger service and freight rail[edit]

Site of proposed 91st Street station looking east to Bergenwood
Site of proposed Ridgefield station looking south to Northern Branch tracks.

The region along the corridor was known as the English Neighborhood during the post-colonial era and was largely developed after the introduction of rail service in the mid 19th century.[4] Until the 1960s the area and neighboring communities in the valley were served by regular passenger rail service.[2] to intermodal terminals on the Hudson River, where passengers were able to transfer to ferries to a variety of slips on the West Side of Manhattan. The West Shore Line to Weehawken Terminal was discontinued in the 1959.[5] Service on the Northern Branch to Pavonia Terminal, and in the 1960s to Hoboken Terminal, ended in 1966.[6]

The stub-ended line is still used to serve industrial facilities along the route. Since Federal Railroad Administration regulations prohibit freight and light rail systems from operating concurrently, the new passenger service would be restricted to running between 5:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.[7]

A Major Investment Study and environmental impact statement for the corridor project were first authorized by the Federal Transit Administration and New Jersey Transit in 2001 to examine the possibility of extending Hudson-Bergen Light Rail along the right of way of the Northern Branch.[8][9] Transportation advocates supported the idea since it would provide single seat access between Bergen and Hudson municipalities along the Hudson River. Because light rail cannot operate concurrently with freight service, these plans would have required installation of additional track or scheduling freight traffic late at night or on weekends. Light rail would also required installation of catenary above the tracks and required substations to feed those wires.

The construction, operational conflicts, and cost considerations led NJT to consider using FRA-compliant diesel multiple unit (DMU) vehicles[2] which would have used the existing trackage and minimized interference with freight service on the line. On February 13, 2006, the agency received $3.6 million in federal funding to conduct engineering and environmental studies. Had it been built it would have essentially been a separate service, with trains travelling south from Tenafly terminating in North Bergen at a station providing connecting service to the separate electric powered HBLR. The DMU alternative was criticized by rail transit advocates who argued that a system which required an additional transfer for Bergen commuters would be inefficient and that the original light rail plan be implemented instead.[10] The proposal was dropped when the manufacturer of DMUs, Colorado Railcar, went bankrupt.[11]

Terminal alternatives[edit]

The proposal included two possible options for the northern end of the line.[12] One build option would included stations in North Bergen at the county line near Fairview, Ridgefield, Palisades Park, Leonia, and Englewood.[13][14] where a terminal would be build at a park and ride adjacent to New Jersey Route 4. A second build option and the "preferred alternative" put forth by NJT was for an extension through Englewood, with additional stations, and Tenafly to two stations, the last of which would be a terminus at the Cresskill town line.[13][15]

Response to the proposal was met with mixed reactions, with those communities at its southern end generally favorable and those at its northern end much less so.[16] In Englewood, Fairview and Ridgefield, officials see the new stations as a positive addition to their public transportation system.[17] In an extensive survey conducted in 2009, Leonia residents questioned the benefit for the borough and expressed concerns about traffic and the location of the station at Fort Lee Road, believing it could be better situated to avoid the congestion it might cause.[18] In Tenafly, residents and officials believe that quality of life in the towns will be negatively affected without much additional benefit.[17] While lending support for the new system in their written responses to the DEIS, the governments of Ridgefield, Leonia, and Engelwood all expressed the concerns about station locations and their parking facilities, suggesting that they would cause congestion.[19]

Opposition had been most vehement in Tenafly,[13][15] where voters had already rejected the plan to re-establish rail service to the town in a non-binding referendum in November 2010.[20][21] Residents and officials rejected plan as described in the DEIS at public hearings in January 2012.[22][23]

Despite local opposition, officials in Bergen County asked the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority to support the proposal to extend light rail service NJT's "preferred alternative".[24] The New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers also endorsed the longer route.[25] The Record regional newspaper in an editorial stated that a terminus in the commercial center of Englewood would be sufficient since the need to begin building the new line is of utmost importance.[26] According to the town's historic preservation commission the DEIS does not sufficiently address impact to historic structures along the route.[27]

It was decided in 2013 to terminate the line at the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center[28]

EIS and estimated costs[edit]

The estimated cost of the project is approaching $1 billion.[29] Approximately $40 million has been allocated to the project, which was expected to begin in 2012 and be completed in 2015 and projected to have an estimated 24,000 passengers daily.[11][dated info] Nearly three years after its submission, the Federal Transit Administration authorized the release of a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) in December 2011.[30][31]

A February 2012 review of the DEIS by the Environmental Protection Agency found a "lack of objections" but questioned the implementation of wetlands mitigation banking proposal and the grade separation outline within the document.[32]

In a meeting held September 2012 with NJT and 13 mayors from the region, NJT said that it had yet to complete review of responses to the DEIS and that no funding for the project had been identified.[33]

With the compromise to build the northern terminus between those originally proposed, the project can be advanced with the completion of a final environmental impact statement.[28][34] Initially, it was undecided whether or not a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (SDEIS) would be required for the Englewood Hospital terminus. State legislators petitioned the Federal Transit Administration to proceed with the existing impact statement to avoid additional delays to the project.[35]

In February 2014, NJ Transit was directed by the Federal Transit Administration to prepare a SDEIS Supplementary Draft Environmental Impact Statement[29] to be complete in the fall.[36]

No funding is yet identified. The state can apply for federal funding, but would have to provide matching state funds, according to Rep. Bill Pascrell's office.[37]

69th Street Bridge[edit]

69th Street construction site

While not officially part of the HBLR Northern Branch extension project the partially built 69th Street Bridge in North Bergen is seen as a significant component in success of its operations. The future bridge will replace the current grade crossing near the CSX North Bergen Yard & NYSW siding between Tonnelle Avenue and West Side Avenue.[38] Significant delays caused by long trains create considerable congestion for those working and shopping in the area.[39] Located midway between the current terminus near 49th Street and the first proposed station at 91st Street, the site was at one time planned to be a stop along the route,[40] though current plans do not include one.[38]

Estimated to cost $67 million in 2005, the project has had sporadic funding since its inception.[41] In May 2006, NJT announced that $38 million had been allocated for the project.[42] Approval for construction was given in 2007.[43] and ground was broken in October 2008.[39] The New Jersey Department of Transportation has allocated multi-year funding for the project in its Capital Program: $10 million in 2009,[44] $15 million in 2010[45] $10 million in 2011[46][47] at which time remaining construction costs were estimated to be $55 million.[47] There was no allocation made for 2012.[48]

Mayors commission[edit]

In March 2014, the mayors of Jersey City, North Hudson and the towns of Bergen County along the route created a commission to promote the construction of the line.[49][50] In July 2014, Englewood hired an engineering consulting firm to review environmental impact statements and exchanges between the municipality and NJT.[51]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Commuters Lose Bid to Keep Erie Trains". The New York Times. October 2, 1966. p. 58. 
  2. ^ a b c Northern Branch Corridor Project
  3. ^ Design and Construction of the Weehawken Tunnel and Bergenline Avenue Station for the Hudson–Bergen Light Rail Transit System (Report). Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc. and New Jersey Transit. http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/circulars/ec058/10_CIVIL%20DESIGN.pdf. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
  4. ^ "Historic Englewood". City of Englewood. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  5. ^ Sherman, Lauren; Gaulkin, Ellen Robb (February 2009). Weehawken. (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738562681. 
  6. ^ Hanley, Robert (July 10, 2001), "Bergen Officials Call for Ambitious Rail Service Expansion", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-12-24 
  7. ^ Rouse, Karen (January 23, 2011), "Plan to extend light rail service into eastern Bergen County faces test today", The Record 
  8. ^ Federal Transit Administration (June 18, 2001). "Major Investment Study/Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Northern Branch Corridor Project". Federal Register. Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  9. ^ http://www.njtransit.com/tm/tm_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=PressReleaseTo&PRESS_RELEASE_ID=588
  10. ^ Northern Branch HBLR (PowerPoint presentation), New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, accessed July 7, 2006
  11. ^ a b Rouse, Karen (July 19, 2009). "Going with electric trains". The Record. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  12. ^ http://www.northernbranchcorridor.com/docs/Northern%20Branch%20DOCS/3.%20Alternatives%20Considered.pdf
  13. ^ a b c "Abstract". Northern Branch Corridorr Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement in Bergen County and Hudson County, New Jersey. USDOT & NJT. Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  14. ^ Frasinelli, Mike (December 13, 2011), "NJ Transit's Hudson-Bergen Light Rail may extend to Bergen stops in near future", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2011-12-19 
  15. ^ a b Noda, Stephanie (December 15, 2011), "Light rail report released; Tenafly preparing response", The Record, retrieved 2011-12-19 
  16. ^ Noda, Stephanie (January 19, 2012), "Many agree rail line is nneeded in northern region", Northern Valley Suburbanite, retrieved 2012-01-19 
  17. ^ a b Davis, Tom (December 18, 2009). "North Jersey communities divided over $800M light-rail line". The Record. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  18. ^ Gordon, Mark W.; Jessica L. Giorgianni, P.P., AICP (February 7, 2011). "Transit Survey Results Analysis Borough of Leonia Bergen County, New Jersey". Urbana Consulting. Retrieved 2012-01-01. 
  19. ^ Hayes, Melissa (February 22, 2012). "Parking Doubts Shadow Light Rail". Record, The; Bergen County, N.J. American Planning Association. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  20. ^ Sudol, Karen (November 2, 2010), "GOP wins in Tenafly as voters defeat rail line ballot question", The Record, retrieved 2011-12-19 
  21. ^ Hall, Douglas E. (February 3, 2011), Still waiting for light rail, Bergen News, retrieved 2012-01-19 
  22. ^ Sullivan, S. P. (December 21, 2011), "As NJ Transit plans light rail for Bergen County, Tenafly officials look to divert the train", NJ.com, retrieved 2011-12-21 
  23. ^ http://www.northjersey.com/news/138570234_At_times_contentious__Tenafly_states_objections_to_light_rail_plan_at_public_hearing.html?page=all
  24. ^ Rouse, Karen. "Light rail pushed for Tenafly". The Record. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  25. ^ http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/lightrail_020112.html
  26. ^ (Editorial) (February 25, 2012), "Don't Derail", The Record, retrieved 2012-02-29 
  27. ^ Wall, David. "Inadequacy of Consideration of the Historic Factors". Tenafly Historic Preservation Commission. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  28. ^ a b Rouse, Karen (May 1, 2013). "NJ Transit scraps light rail proposal in Tenafly for potential new alternative". The Record. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  29. ^ a b Lueddeke, Kim (March 25, 2014). "NJ Transit proposes new light rail extension plan with Englewood as final stop". The Record. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  30. ^ Davis, Tom (May 7, 2010). "Light Rail Line to Use Electric Cars". The Record. p. L1. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  31. ^ Rouse, Karen (December 13, 2011), "Plan to extend light rail awaits public comment", The Record, retrieved 2011-12-21 
  32. ^ http://www.epa.gov/region2/spmm/pdf/northern_branch_corridor_deis.pdf EPA Februaryt 21, 2012
  33. ^ Simone, Stephanie; Noda, Stephanie (October 4, 2012), "NJ Transit discusses light rail with Northern Valley mayors", Northern Valley Suburbanite, retrieved 2012-10-10 
  34. ^ Frasinelli, Mike (May 9, 2013). "NJ Transit studying extension of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Englewood Hospital". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-05-09. 
  35. ^ Noda, Stephanie (October 10, 2013). "New Jersey state leaders from Bergen County urge faster action on light rail plan in Northern Valley". Northern Valley Suburbanite. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  36. ^ Lueddeke, Kim (March 25, 2014). "NJ Transit proposes new light rail extension plan with Englewood as final stop". The Record. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  37. ^ Rouse, Karen (April 21, 2014). "Englewood mayor hopes to jump-start Bergen County light rail plan". The Record. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  38. ^ a b "69th Street Bridge". Final Scoping Document Northern Branch Corridor Project. USDOT, FTA, NJT. March 2008. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  39. ^ a b "WORK BEGINS ON 69TH STREET IMPROVEMENTS IN NORTH BERGEN New overpass will enhance safety and relieve traffic congestion" (Press release). New Jersey Transit. October 17, 2008. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  40. ^ "Proposed West Shore Map". New Jersey Transit. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  41. ^ Hague, Jim (June 6, 2005), "Proposed $67M overpass in jeopardy", The Hudson Reporter, retrieved 2011-12-23 
  42. ^ Hague, Jim (May 9, 2006), "Finally - a bridge over the trains 69th Street overpass gets $38M state funding approval", Hudson Reporter, retrieved 2011-12-24 
  43. ^ "NJ Transit Gives 69th Street Bridge Improvements Project "Green Light"" (Press release). New Jersey Transit. July 11, 2007. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  44. ^ "69th Street Bridge (02311)" (pdf). FY 2009 TRANSPORTATION CAPITAL PROGRAM New Jersey Department of Transportation Projects. New Jersey Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  45. ^ "69th Street Bridge (02311)" (pdf). FY 2010 TRANSPORTATION CAPITAL PROGRAM New Jersey Department of Transportation Projects. New Jersey Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  46. ^ "69th Street Bridge (02311)" (pdf). FY 2011 TRANSPORTATION CAPITAL PROGRAM New Jersey Department of Transportation Projects. New Jersey Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  47. ^ a b McDonald, Terrence (March 28, 2011), "$551M in transportation plan for Hudson County", The Jersey Journal, retrieved 2011-12-24 
  48. ^ "FY 2011 TRANSPORTATION CAPITAL PROGRAM New Jersey Department of Transportation Projects" (pdf). New Jersey Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  49. ^ "Jersey City and Englewood mayors will co-chair light-rail panel to push transit line into Bergen County". The Jersey Journal. March 19, 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  50. ^ "Mayors Commssion" (Press release). News from Frank Huttle. March 18, 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  51. ^ Noda, Stefanie (Juy 14, 2014). "Englewood is hiring light-rail consultant". The Record. Retrieved 2014-07-14.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]