The year 2003 will see more options for train travel. Further steps have been taken in constructing the 21.5-mile "light rail" line from Bayonne through northern Hudson County, and construction on the Allied Junction train hub in Secaucus near the Turnpike is moving along.Anyone who lives or works in the Hoboken-Weehawken area has surely noticed the curious-looking concrete bars that lie under the Willow Avenue Bridge and wind around the western perimeter of Hoboken. Keep watching, because these bars are tangible evidence of the light rail's expansion through North Hudson. Concrete T-pillars are crossing near Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken. These will eventually hold up an elevated section of the light rail that will run along River Road.
According to Ken Hitchner, a spokesman for NJ Transit, the completion of a light rail station on the Hoboken/Jersey City border this past year signaled the completion of phase one of the light rail line, which starts at 45th Street in Bayonne.
The second phase is already under construction. This is a six-mile, seven-station line that will run north through Hoboken's west side into Weehawken, Union City and North Bergen. The first segment will run from the Hoboken station to the Weehawken Ferry Terminal and be completed in 2004. In 2005, it will continue from the terminal to Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen.
Hitchner added that while the original plans had the light rail terminating in Ridgefield, talks are currently underway to have the line end up much farther north in Bergen County, possibly terminating in Tenafly. Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell also revealed that there are "exploratory" talks going on to bring the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail through the new Allied Junction rail transfer station in Secaucus. The light rail may, he said, be "running up the west side of Secaucus to access parts of Bergen County."
Secaucus Transfer Station
Secaucus can look forward to the "partial" opening of the Secaucus Transfer train station in the fall of 2003.
This new train station, part of a $450 million project that has fallen two years behind schedule and $100 million over budget, will ease traffic congestion on roadways throughout northern New Jersey. It will allow passengers to get to Manhattan by taking a train from Secaucus rather than heading further south to Hoboken first. Transit officials estimate that travel time to Penn Station in New York City from the Secaucus Station will be six minutes as opposed the more than 20 that it currently takes riders who head to Hoboken and take the PATH to Manhattan.
The project will link many of the rail lines servicing northern New Jersey, including NJ Transit's Main and Bergen County lines and the Atlantic City line, as well as Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line. According to Mayor Elwell, commuters in Secaucus will be able to take direct Amtrak trains from the station to Boston and Washington D.C. A route will also run to Newark Penn Station and to Newark Airport.
Because of the delays that have occurred in the construction, the opening of the station in September, 2003 will be a "phased-in" process. The full opening is not expected until the winter of 2003-2004. The reasons for the phasing in are many, but the main reason is that the opening of the station hinges on the restoration of train service to lower Manhattan. Without that restoration, the full operation of the transfer station during weekday peak periods would produce what officials are calling "unacceptable crowding conditions" on trains operating on the Northeast Corridor to and from Penn Station in New York City.
According to Elwell, the loss of the World Trade Center train station was the major cause of delays in construction of the Secaucus station. Said Elwell, "That threw everything into disarray."
He added that a proposed temporary PATH station at the WTC site would help the project along.
"This [Secaucus] station," he said, "is a long-awaited addition to the area that's been more or less delayed by the loss of tunnels and such from the World Trade Center tragedy."
Another problem with the full opening of the station is the current location of the Jersey City Police weapons range. It is located on the border of Secaucus and directly in the path of a proposed Turnpike ramp to the station. Mayor Elwell had vociferously objected to a proposed plan to move the range to Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus. According to sources, a compromise has been worked out between NJ Transit and the Jersey City Police Department to temporarily move the range to a location on the border of Secaucus and Jersey City.