Light rail on track

Hannington Dia, Hudson Reporter

New Jersey Transit held two public hearings on the planned Hudson-Bergen Light Rail extension into Bergen County on April 24. The project would add seven new stops to the existing service, all north along a 10-mile CSX railroad right of way, between 91st Street in North Bergen and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. (Separately, the system also plans to add a stop in Jersey City off Route 440 near a proposed massive development.)

The system currently has 24 stations in Hudson County, through North Bergen, Union City, West New York, Weehawken, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne.Officials and residents convened on April 24 at the Crowne Plaza Englewood Hotel to give their thoughts on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, an overview of the seven-stop addition.

The stops won’t be built any time soon. NJ Transit estimates they would open at the earliest in 2029.

“I think the expansion of the light rail will only further help Northern Jersey and Jersey City continue th[eir] growth,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who attended the hearing.

He noted, “We have seen unprecedented growth, over the last 15 years. Look at where the development pockets are; they mirror exactly the light rail stops through Jersey City. Thousands and thousands of units grow, because of the light rail.”

“This should’ve been completed, because I, with many others, have come to these meetings for the last 15 years” said District 37 Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. She sponsored an assembly resolution backing the extension, and is the sister of Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Vainieri.

Vainieri Huttle, who resides in Englewood, noted that she frequently travels to Hudson County, but the travel would be easier on the light rail.

“Meetings in Jersey City happen so often for me,” she said. “It may take 30 minutes by light. I will tell you by car, to get to Jersey City, it’s two hours with traffic.”

“This has been a bipartisan effort over the course of many, many years,” said State Sen. Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

Rose Heck, the former state assemblywoman who was appointed chairwoman for the Light Rail Transit Legislative Panel, said that there were naysayers when officials first proposed the HBLR.

“When you look at it now, it’s a completely different world,’ Heck said. “Jersey City is called, ‘Wall Street West,’ it’s doing so well. Hoboken is the miracle city. Every young person wants to go to Hoboken. And then add on that Bayonne also benefitted. More people had the foresight to look ahead for the benefit of the county and their communities. Light rail is not noisy. It’s friendly. It’s barrier free.”

When completed, the train would take 33 minutes to get from Englewood to Hoboken, according to the impact statement. It would also move a projected 12,370 daily passengers.

Several Bergen County residents commented in favor of the line.

Members of the public who wish to comment can do so by addressing written letters to the following:

Linda A. Mosch, P.E., Project Director, NJ Transit, One Penn Plaza East, Newark, NJ, 07105. They can also email comments to [email protected]

Read more: Hudson Reporter - Light rail on track NJ Transit holds public hearing for HBLR extension