"The light rail system has brought reliable and affordable transporation that continues to be an economic engine for this region," Corzine said. "Today, we begin the next chapter of its great success story."
Joined by U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, Corzine stood on Eighth Street near where the new station would be constructed to announce that funding was in place to move ahead with the long anticipated project.
"This is a historic occasion," said state Senator and Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria, joining Corzine, Transporation Commisssioner Kris Kolluri and NJ Transit Executive Director George Warrington in making the announcement. "This is the site where the historic Central Railroad had a station for more than 100 years. Then in the 1970s, public oifficials made a decision I believe was a mistake to promote gas guzzling motor vehicles and do away with the rail system. Since then, thanks to the public officials on the stage with me and their predecessors, we have built one of the best public transporation systems in the country."
A work in progress
The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system connects Bayonne with Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City and North Bergen.
With an eventual overall cost of approximately $2.2 billion, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail is one of the largest public works projects ever in New Jersey. The project is being funded by a mixture of state and federal funds.
The project was first envisioned in the late 1980s when officials on various levels of government sought an alternative means of transporation in the traffic congested area along the Hudson River waterfront.
Although not envisioned in the original plans, Bayonne officials - including the late then-Councilwoman Dorothy Harrington - fought to have the system exended
Although the rail line opened to the public in April 2000, the original line only had two stops in Bayonne, 34th street the farthest south.
The 22nd Street station opened in 2003.
The southern most station Although original plans called for another station to be constructed at Fifth Street, this was changed to Eighth Street. In 2004, plans for a station at Eighth Street were unveiled.
For Bayonne residents the light rail has become a significant link with Jersey City and by connecting to the PATH and ferry system there, New York.
"By connecting riders to ferries, PATH trains and commuter rail, the Hudson-Bergen line is helping us get the maxium value from our transportation system," Lautenberg said. "The decision to extend the line south to Eighth Street is recognition of how important this line has become."
With a design based on the original Eighth Street Central Railroad Station, the new station will become the southern terminus of the light rail system at the intersection of Avenue C and Eighth Street, and will feature 15 short-term parking spaces and a bus drop-off area.
Most riders will likely walk to the station from the surrounding neighborhood.
Menendez said the line has provided efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly transporation options for commuters and local residents who travel to and from work, school or recreation.
The line, he also pointed out, has become a powerful economic engineer, bringing in new businesses, new housing development and new visitors to each town along the rail's route.
When questioned after the public festivities, Menendez expanded on his comments, saying that the rail line increases property values because people want to live near the line. The stations also tend to draw new businesses that want to take advantage of people coming to and from the trains.
"This also creates jobs," he said. "So we see a ripple effect throughout the local economy."
Preliminary engineering almost done
Warrington, of NJ Transit, who celebrated a kind of homecoming since he was born in Bayonne, said prelimary engineering will be done next month at which time the final engineering plans will begin.
With the engineering work nearly complete, work on the rail line and the station is expected to start by 2008 and should be complete by 2009. By 2015, transit officials expect the station to generate 1,700 riders each workday.
Doria said that about two-thirds of the engineering is done.
The rail line will change as it comes south in order to deal with the more restricted passage. The rail extention from 22nd Street to Eighth Street will make use of the exiting right of way through Conrail's Bayonne railyard and a viaduct above the southside of Avenue E.
But unlike other portions of the rail, the line to Eighth street will use only one rail for passage back and forth because of the narrow right of way.
The project could cost $90 million
The project was made possible because the state Legislature and Corzine agreed to replenish and expand the state's Transporation Trust Fund, as well as by action taken by Lautenberg and Menendez to secure federal funding.
Corzine called it a cooperative effort between all levels of government and public bodies involved.
The total cost for extention and the station could be as high as $90 million. Of this, $60 million will come from the federal Congested Area Air Quality Fund, $20 million from other federal funds and $10 million from the states Transporation Trust Fund.
Transporation Commissioner Kolluri said the renewal of the state's trust fund made the project possible.
Council President Vincent Lo Re said it is important for government to make people's lives better.
"That's what this project does," he said.