Lehman Brothers employee Tanisha Mills is thankful for this week's reopening of the PATH station at Exchange Place. But unlike other waterfront employees, Mills didn't gush about how the resumed service saved time on her commute.
As Mills walked across a riverfront walkway Tuesday evening with friend and co-worker Peta-Gaye Carter, she said the delay she experiences while waiting for the New York-bound trains at the Pavonia/Newport station makes her commute just as long as it was last week.
"But it saves the walk to the Grove Street station," Mills said as she gestured down to her black pumps. "And when you're wearing these shoes, it matters."
Mills and Carter are just two of an estimated 1,000 people who are using the refurbished station daily. And Port Authority officials expect that number to climb to 10,000 by the end of the year, when a temporary sister station across the river at the former World Trade Center site opens to the public in November.
In the meantime, regional commuters can finally enjoy train service from Exchange Place station, which had been suspended after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The new station features a variety of cosmetic and operational improvements from the days of yore.
The $160 million Exchange Place renovation plan called for the construction of new crossover tunnels and track, which allow the station to serve as a terminal instead of just as a thru-station. Platforms were also expanded to accommodate 10-car trains. They allow all cars to open onto the platform.
Eight new switch machines were installed, along with 36 new train stop mechanisms, 450 new signal cables and 38 brighter LED signals. Flood-damaged electrical equipment was replaced and the lighting throughout the station was improved. The escalators were also refurbished to run a bit faster on their 70-foot trip from street to platform.
The system's lines were also adjusted to accommodate the reopened station. New York-bound trains will now leave from Hoboken and Journal Square. Exchange Place trains will end at either Hoboken or Newark.
New York Waterway also adjusted its ferry service to accommodate the new station, with World Financial Center-bound boats leaving the adjacent ferry slips every six minutes during morning and evening rush hours.
The Port Authority estimates the commute to Lower Manhattan from Newark - using Exchange Place and nearby ferries - will take 32 minutes.
Remembering the past
The station's revival was not without its bittersweet moments. In a dedication ceremony Sunday, state officials and local business representatives expressed both happiness and grief at the reopening, recalling both the tragedy of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the toll it took on local families.
Gov. James McGreevey said his excitement at the reopening was muted by the memory of the 37 Port Authority police officers who were killed on Sept. 11, and Port Authority Board Chairman Anthony R. Coscia reflected on the psychological toll the event took on the area, saying it stole part of our collective spirit.
"But what makes this region great are the people," Coscia said. "That's [our] competitive advantage...and as far as I'm concerned, this is the center if the universe - and it's the people here who make it that."
New Jersey senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg praised Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham's leadership in facilitating the restoration of the station. They pledged their support in garnering resources for the ongoing rehabilitation of the area's transportation system.
"We'll never forget the pain and reality of 9/11," Corzine said. "We will keep fighting for resources to make sure we keep moving forward."
Lautenberg said, "On behalf of the memory of those who died, we must point to today and say that America rebuilds."
Despite the positive looks to the future, some commuters said that walking through the station brought back images of what transpired across the Hudson River 21 months ago. It reminded them of what their lives were like before the station closed, and some said that they couldn't help but see the station through a tragedy-tinged filter.
"It's just different," said Manhattan resident and Merrill Lynch employee Staci Lichtman. "It's strange to be here for the first time after Sept. 11."
"It's kind of eerie," said a Basking Ridge resident named John, who was on his way to have lunch with friends at the Iron Monkey on Greene Street. "It brings back a lot of memories."
"But it's good for this neighborhood of Jersey City to have it back again," he added. "Along with the light rail, it'll help revitalize the businesses in the area."