Preliminary engineering has begun on what will be a new Hudson Bergen Light Rail extension over route 440 in Jersey City, connecting Jersey City’s east and west sides.
The early phase of construction on the extension was highlighted at a press conference by Gov. Phil Murphy, NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett, Mayor Steven Fulop, Assemblymen Raj Mukherji, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGised, and labor representatives, on March. 3.
“I am thrilled to announce the West Side Avenue extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail today, as this project represents the type of smart, 21st-century infrastructure needed for New Jersey’s commuters and economic future,” said Governor Murphy. “Continued expansion of mass transit is fundamental to creating a more innovative, interconnected state.”
The approximately 3,700-foot route extension will include one new station west of Route 440 to support Jersey City’s planned development on the Hackensack waterfront in what Mayor Steven Fulop characterized as the “single biggest ask for Jersey city over the last several years.”
Along the Hackensack River on 95 acres of Jersey City’s west side the new mixed-use Bayfront Development will be constructed which will contain over 7,000 residential units, 35 percent of which are slated as affordable housing.
“This is exciting for Jersey City and residents of the West Side,” said Fulop. “With the city progressing on Bayfront, the largest mixed-income housing development in the region, this light rail extension is crucial to our city’s growth. This is a good day for Jersey City.”
“This extension will benefit so many people, in so many ways,” said NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett. “It will create an entirely new neighborhood west of Route 440, with new residential and commercial development and parks. It will provide a convenient connection between Jersey City’s western waterfront and existing transit services, with seamless connections to the PATH train and Lower Manhattan. And it will spur sustainable economic growth and improve mobility throughout Jersey City, while helping to reduce greenhouse gas through reduced road traffic.”
Corbett said over 50,000 people ride the light rail daily and that the extension will reduce carbon emissions as the light rail service emits 0.4 pounds of carbon emissions per passenger per mile while cars emit double, at 0.8 pounds per mile.
“I’m thrilled that the much-needed extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail is officially underway,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji. “This project will provide an economic boost and bring with it jobs and growth for Jersey City and our surrounding communities. The extension will also make the lives of commuters easier, lessen the number of cars on our highways and reduce our carbon footprint. That is a win-win-win.”
The extension is estimated to cost $220 million and is currently in its preliminary engineering phase.
Last month Murphy proposed a budget that includes nearly $600 million for New Jersey Transit which he says will “shield NJ Transit riders from fares hikes for the third straight year.”
“Our roads aren’t the only connective tissue that hold our neighborhoods together and too many of them, especially in urban areas like Jersey City, are near breaking points of congestion,” said Murphy. “Mass transit must be a critical part of our future, but for it to be that we must continue to invest in making it stronger.”
During the press conference, protesters gathered nearby, urging Murphy to end an NJ Transit proposal for a new power plant in Kearny which will run on fracked natural gas.
The NJ TransitGrid Project is proposed to make NJ Transit more resilient by providing backup power for NJ Transit rail lines and HBLR.
According to Matt Smith of the Food & Water Watch, the proposed gas-fired power plant would be another major source of air pollution in the region, emitting known carcinogens, exacerbating already failing levels of ground-level ozone pollution, and releasing over 576,000 tons of new greenhouse gases annually.
“He was there for a press conference about NJ Transit, across the river from the site of the proposed power plant, and we thought it was the perfect opportunity to point across river at what will be a major source of pollution which runs counter to all of the governor’s environmental justice commitments,” said Smith.
He and the other protesters called on Murphy to stop the power plant and replace it with a renewable energy and battery storage alternative, which they say would be consistent with the governor’s commitments to fighting climate change and transitioning the state to 100 percent clean renewable energy sources.