Even in slow economic times and with a new governor slashing spending, Hudson County is still seeing growth in the transportation sector.
That’s due much in part to federal funding coming from President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. But it also comes out of the demands of a population living in one of the largest job markets in the county, the Northern New Jersey/New York City region.
Mother of all tunnels
The mother of all road projects in Hudson County is underway. It is for a one-mile portion of the billion-dollar ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project, the new mass transit tunnel that is expected to increase rail capacity from New Jersey to New York from 46,000 rush hour riders each day to 90,000.
The tunnel will run through North Bergen and the edges of several other Hudson County towns, under the Hudson River and into a new station in Manhattan next to Penn Station.
The reconstruction of the 14th Street Viaduct in Hoboken begins in early 2011.
Construction is underway, and commuters should be able to travel the ARC by 2017.
Bridges replaced or widened
Meanwhile, a smaller local thoroughfare is being expanded. The federal government has invested $45 million to replace the 14th Street Viaduct which leads from Hoboken up to Union City and Jersey City Heights. During construction, the two-way bridge will stay open, but one lane will be closed at a time. Approximately 20,000 cars, trucks, and buses use the bridge on a daily basis, but it has become worn down.
Hudson County could begin two years of construction in early 2011. According to Bob Jasek, the county’s chief engineer, the two-lane viaduct road will literally be cut in half during construction.
Meanwhile, another viaduct project is taking place, this one in Jersey City. The Route 1&9 Viaduct is being replaced over Saint Paul’s Avenue. The $200 million project, started by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, began construction in November, 2008 and completion is anticipated in late 2011.
It calls for a new structure on a new alignment north of the present structure. It will include new approach roads to safely connect to Route 1&9T, Route 7, Route 139, the Pulaski Skyway, Route 1&9 north of Tonnele Circle, and local streets in Jersey City.
On a different note, local, state and federal officials are studying how to deal with the fact that the Bayonne Bridge is too low for newer commercial ships to pass under. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has commissioned a $10 million study to look at alternatives, such as replacement of the bridge. The study should be completed in 2010. Opponents of the change fear that it will require nearby housing to be taken over by eminent domain.
In non-bridge news, Jersey Avenue in downtown Jersey City is receiving a $72 million extension. Jersey Avenue going into Phillips Avenue in Liberty State Park will become a 36-foot wide boulevard with two travel lanes and one parking lane. The project could start as early as August.
Light rail still expanding
For those without cars in Hudson County, moving from point A to point B can be a little trickier yet still manageable. That’s because various public transit projects have been under development or put in place recently.
The Hudson-Bergen light rail system is still expanding. Opened in April 2000, it provides more than 40,000 weekday trips between 23 stations in Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City and North Bergen. But it is supposed to eventually head further south and north.
NJ Transit is working on the extension of the line one mile from 22nd Street to West 8th Street in Bayonne. The two-year, $58.4 million project is expected to be completed by end of this year.
In July, the NJ Transit Board of Directors approved a study looking at extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail service to Jersey City's west side. The board approved a $251,000 contract with AKRF, Inc., to study the extension of the light rail line from its current western terminus at West Side Avenue Station across Route 440 to a redevelopment zone along the Hackensack Riverfront.
Also, NJ Transit is currently studying an extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail from 85th Street in North Bergen to Tenafly in Bergen County.
Those depending on the bus in Jersey City’s Greenville and Bergen-Lafayette sections had something to applaud in June when NJ Transit introduced the No. 6 Ocean Avenue-Journal Square bus route. The route, serving thousands of commuters, replaced the discontinued Coach USA Bus No. 99.
It currently travels from Greenville to Journal Square for four trips per hour during peak periods and two trips per hour during off-peak periods, and it connects Hudson County Plaza and Journal Square with two Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stations: Garfield Avenue and Liberty State Park.
Giving a hike to biking
In March, NJ Transit is holding a public hearing to discuss two new rail bridges that would run north and south over the Hackensack River near Secaucus. Activists who want to create a linked bike path up the East Coast will also attend the hearing. The bridges run though the proposed 3,000 bike/walk route, the East Coast Greenway.
Meanwhile, one Hudson County town has take up the biking cause with some success. New Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer is a big fan of biking. The city already has bike lanes from Sinatra Park on the waterfront to Hoboken Railroad Terminal, and in recent years built lanes on Madison and Jefferson Avenues. Zimmer proposed recently a bike lane to be built on the soon-to-be rebuilt 14th Street Viaduct in Hoboken.
Cyclists from other towns are working to get where they live up to speed. A group called Bike Jersey City met at Zeppelin Hall in downtown Jersey City in December to make the city more bicycle-friendly. They called for the implementation of an extensive bicycle system throughout Jersey City, and a program to encourage bicycling for commuting and for recreation. They are hopeful for the Jersey Avenue extension project, which will also have a 10-foot-wide bike path.
A cyclist organization, Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey, has pursued since 2005 a designated bike lane on River Road. The Hudson County road runs along the Hudson River waterfront through towns like North Bergen, Guttenberg, West New York, and Weehawken. The idea is that a dedicated bike lane would alleviate some of the traffic that congests the road.
Walking does the talking
Last September saw the opening of a long-awaited pedestrian walkway between Hoboken’s train station and Jersey City’s Newport section. The Long Slip Pedestrian Bridge runs over a narrow body of water beside the Hoboken Train Terminal Light Rail station. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) contributed over $6.4 million to the bridge construction.
The pedestrian bridge is part of the state’s ongoing Hudson River Waterfront Walkway project, spanning 18.5 miles from Bayonne to Fort Lee. When all sections are completed, some by developers and some by the government, people will be able to walk along the entire length of the waterfront.
Another addition to the walkway was unveiled in June. The new half-mile section connects the Port Liberte residential development to the Liberty National Golf Course and Liberty State Park. The portion is opened 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Meanwhile, Weehawken officials and representatives from NJ Transit are studying how to complete an unfinished pedestrian bridge that spans Port Imperial Boulevard near the waterfront, linking a Hudson Bergen Light Rail stop on one side to the NY Waterway Ferry Terminal on the other side. The bridge will make it easier for commuters from the area’s new developments to get to the ferry and train.
Floating their boats
NY Waterway, based in Weehawken, celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. They are the largest privately-owned commuter ferry service in the U.S., carrying 30,000 passengers per day between New Jersey (Weehawken, West New York, Hoboken and Jersey City) and Manhattan.
In November, ferry service from Paulus Hook in Jersey City to the World Financial Center went from a 15-minute schedule to an eight-minute schedule. Also in November, the company started service from Liberty Harbor Marina in Jersey City to the World Financial Center in New York.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.