In a meeting that included Mayor Dennis Elwell and the two Third Ward council members, the committee asked questions about the impact of the closing of the Harmon Cove train station and how residents going to Manhattan would access the new station at the other end of Secaucus.
Last year, residents learned from a story printed in the Secaucus Reporter that the Harmon Cove train station would close once the Secaucus Transfer Station comes on line. Work has been underway to change the direction of the rail so that the Bergen Line, which currently stops near Harmon Cove, will turn south and join the Main Line. Residents of Harmon Cove have raised questions about what they would do to access the new facility.
"We told them we have two new shuttle buses that would provide them with transportation," Elwell said in a telephone interview this week. "We intend to meet with the Joint Board again to show them the maps showing the new turnpike interchange and other details."
Because the town has no way to determine now what train schedules will be like when the change occurs, Elwell could not give Harmon Cove residents a firm bus schedule. "We want to tie the shuttle to the train schedule," he said. "But we do not yet know what the impact of increased train ridership will have on the schedules. We don't want to schedule the buses based on the current train traffic through the Harmon Cove station."
The new station, a $450 million project located in the south of Secaucus, is an important step toward easing traffic congestion on roadways throughout Northern New Jersey, allowing passengers easier access to central Manhattan by rail, as well as making connections between some of the more important rail lines between Trenton and New York City.
Transit officials estimate that travel time to Manhattan's Penn Station will be six minutes, as opposed to 15 to 20 minutes via the Path Station from Hoboken or from the various ferries, and the connection could generate as many as 16,000 riders daily.
The project links many of the rail lines servicing northern New Jersey, including NJ Transit's Main and Bergen County lines as well as Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line. This center would form a hub that is expected to make it easier for commuters to use trains from a wider area and possibly eliminate auto traffic from local highways and congestion caused in other rail terminals in Hoboken and Newark.
The town will also need to work out the route of the two shuttle buses. Will one bus be used exclusively by Harmon Cove Towers, which has the majority of train riders, while the other shuttle goes from the town house section? Or will there be a schedule that has both buses stopping throughout the Harmon Cove complex?
"We haven't worked out those details yet," Elwell said.
The mayor also said he doesn't know if the total ridership will exceed the capacity of the two 20-passenger shuttle buses. "My guess is that it will," he said. "This means we may have to make additional arrangements, such as asking to use the Housing Authority's bus on peak hours."
Once the commercial element of the new train station is started, Secaucus residents can expect additional help from the owners of Allied Junction, who promised free train service for all residents throughout town.
Elwell, however, said shuttle service will also have to consider residents in other parts of town, such as the North End, who also make use of the Harmon Cove train station.
"We can't give them answers yet," Elwell said. "There are just too many unknowns." SIDEBAR
Rothman promotes New Bergen Rail Network
As part of a broader effort to develop a new rail network in Bergen and Passaic counties, Congressman Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.) took a test run on the new Colorado Aero DMU Railcar, which can run on already existing freight tracks and is seen as a potential solution to relieving the traffic congestion that plagues the Northern New Jersey area.
"It is imperative that we find new, efficient, comfortable, and affordable means of public transportation, and in particular rail transportation, in order to relieve our overcrowded roadways and eliminate the frustration of automobile commuters who are stuck in their vehicles waiting for traffic to let up," Rothman said. "The new, self-propelled DMU commuter railcar shows us the bright future for rails in Bergen and Passaic counties and across the country. It provides the flexibility that is necessary in order to develop an effective commuter rail system in a densely populated area, and the ability to roll out service on existing freight rail tracks instead of having to develop new ones."
The DMU Railcar is a diesel-powered locomotive that can carry up to 228 passengers on already existing freight tracks, or 412 on its double-decker train. With its ability to operate on existing tracks, the train's use could be implemented quickly in Northern New Jersey, without the need to construct new lines. A new rail network would connect with existing lines to facilitate commuting by rail throughout New Jersey.
Rothman has been a strong advocate of a new rail network and secured congressional authorization for the project during his first term in Congress.
As a current member of the House Appropriations Committee, which allocates all of the discretionary money in the federal budget, Rothman secured $2.35 million last year for engineers to study the development of a series of rail stations and shuttle service links for a future rail network in Bergen and Passaic counties.
This year, he secured the support of his colleagues on the Appropriations Committee for an additional $4.5 million for engineers to examine ways to link existing commuter rail corridors, highways, and bus service with a new rail network.
"Since coming to Congress six years ago, I have been working to relieve congestion on our roads by not only unclogging outdated intersections and roadways that are too narrow, but I have also gotten Congress to begin investing in our rails," Rothman said. "Whether it is the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line or a new rail network in Bergen and Passaic counties, which we see the promise of today, I am committed to furthering the development of the passenger rail here in Northern New Jersey."