While the NJ Transit Hudson-Bergen Light Rail continues to proceed toward Weehawken and points north, officials took one of the trains on a little test run Thursday for the first time, just to see if things are operating properly.
According to Charles Ingoglia, NJ Transit's director of public affairs for new Light Rail construction, the test run went smoothly and all systems are go to have the Light Rail making regular runs through Weehawken by the end of the summer.
"It was a one-time test run, but we might make other test runs in the future," Ingoglia said. "According to our reports, everything ran very [well]. There were no issues. We're moving forward as scheduled. If there were any major issues, I would have heard something. The way we're looking at it, we should be to Second Street and Ninth Street [in Hoboken] and to Lincoln Harbor [in Weehawken] by this summer. As the project continues, it will increase the usefulness the Light Rail has to the residents along the waterfront, who will be able to get to Newport Mall and downtown Jersey City fairly easily."
Ingoglia said that the work to secure the rock face of the Palisades had been "virtually completed," which meant that the test run with an actual train along the line could take place.
"That was one of the most important issues we had to handle," Ingoglia said. "We had to secure the rock and ensure that there were no hazards from falling rock to the roadways below."
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner believed that the simple test run was highly significant and symbolic of what has become a long road.
"The whole odyssey of Light Rail started in 1987," Turner said. "So this was the culmination of that odyssey. There are only a few people still involved from when the project began, with Gov. Tom Kean and his 'Circle of Mobility' plan designed to encourage regional mass transit. There was a deal to include more bus routes back then and not Light Rail. But a committee of citizens took the lead in convincing the proper agencies that what was needed was mass transit."
Added Turner, "When you see the first testing, you realize that the Light Rail has finally reached Weehawken after all this time. The testing that took place is a great testament to a lot of people who worked hard to see a mass transit network along the waterfront."
Turner said that the Light Rail station at Lincoln Harbor has already been constructed.
"There are still some details that need to be worked out," Turner said. "But we're soon going to be providing a variety of mass transit possibilities."
Included in that is the new NY Waterway ferry terminal, which is also slated to be built later this year.
Ingoglia said that after the Light Rail makes its way into Weehawken at the Lincoln Harbor station and another station eventually outside the Lincoln Tunnel, the project will continue through the old Conrail tunnel into Union City, where an underground station will be constructed.
"In terms of engineering, it becomes a pretty big accomplishment by the time we get to Union City," Ingoglia said. "It's a very unique construction and the first station that we'll have not on the surface. It will take a lot of work, but we're moving according to schedule, including getting into Weehawken. It's exciting, because this is the second piece of the line and it continues to show that the line is advancing."
Ingoglia said that once Weehawken becomes a regular stop, there should be an increase in riders who will use the Light Rail from Weehawken into Hoboken and points south.
"For the people of Weehawken, it brings a lot of people closer together," Ingoglia said. "I credit Mayor [Richard] Turner's excitement in seeing the test run, because he knows what this will mean to his community."