In anticipation of development slated to begin shortly in the first part of the Harbor Station District, the parking lot will close permanently at the end of August.
Suzanne Mack, chief planner for the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, said the 45th Street Station parking lot was initially conceived as a temporary lot.
"The Initial Operating Segment of the HBLRT opened April 15, 1998 and was from 45th Street to Exchange Place. NJ Transit through the office of Waterfront negotiated for a temporary lot at MOTBY until the 32nd Street station was built," Mack said. "The initial lot was for 170 spaces. It currently has 40 monthlies and some daily usage. NJ Transit entered into a lease for the site which expired in 2004. This has been continued over since then."
Mack said the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor redevelopment plan designates the land currently used as the parking lot - which is at the Northwest corner of the Harbor Station North development district - as part of the Fidelco/Roseland area.
"Harbor Station North has a preliminary site plan approval to build 438 townhouses. The Fidelco property starts at the 45th Street Bridge and continues southerly to the now Port Terminal Blvd," Mack said. "The BLRA left the lot open as a courtesy to the HBLRT, despite the lease expiring because we didn't need it either until now for development. The entire area is being cleared and filled for development to make way for utility installation. The 40 NJT monthly ticket holders will be offered spots at 32nd Street as of Sept. 1, 2007, when the lot will be permanently closed."
The redevelopment plan envisions a "transit village" design for the existing 45th Street station. This is an initiative spearheaded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ Transit in the 1990s in order to reduce congestion on the state's highways by building communities around transportation hubs so people rely less on automobiles.
Such transit villages are designed so that people can walk to the trains.
"NJ Transit is expected to see increased HBLRT ridership when the development at Harbor Station North is done with easy access across the bridge by pedestrians who can use the line for travel to Jersey City and the north," Mack said.
The concept of the transit village centers on the idea that people can get to rail access points by means other than cars.
"That is what we are hoping will happen," Mack said. "You know from the growth that Jersey City and Hoboken are experiencing that the HBLRT has become a catalyst for residential development, which Bayonne is trying to capitalize on. The Peninsula will actually have two stations - 32nd Street connected by a planned pedestrian overpass and 45th Street similar to Liberty Harbor North that has Jersey Avenue and Marin Boulevard stations. The City of Bayonne applied for transit village designation from the state a few years ago, but was told it was too early in the process since we had no concrete site plan approvals. Now that we have site plans, we will apply again in the future for this designation on the Peninsula."
430-acre development project
Harbor Station North, once it breaks ground, would be the first visible sign of development at the former Military Ocean Terminal - now known at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor. This is the first part of a two-part project to develop the portion of the 430-acre peninsula, and the section nearest to the already developed portions of Bayonne.
Harbor Station will consist of low to mid-rise housing, some office space, commercial space and civil facilities, according to the redevelopment plan.
The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority came to agreement with Fidelco Bayonne Realty in 2005 to for the construction of 447 new residential units on the Harbor Station North section. These will include flats, townhouses and "stacked townhouses," as well as 10,000 square feet of retail space. One key selling point of these units is the easy access to the 45th Street light rail station.
Harbor Station South, which is expected to be developed at some later point, will accommodate the main commercial segment of this district, and will have connections to the 34th Street light rail station via a new pedestrian walkway over Route 440. The two sections (north and south) are expected to provide the transportation anchor for the entire MOTBY development.
Sires gets light rail funding
In a related matter, Rep Albio Sires (D-13th Dist.) helped procure $55 million in funding for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. This federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts Program fulfills the full federal funding commitment.
"I was involved at the very early stages of the light rail system, and I am proud that I was able to see the project through and witness its success," Sires said. "The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has become the favorite means of transportation for many families in our community, and it affords elderly citizens the freedom of riding safely to adjacent towns and shopping areas."
This $55 million in federal funding is part of the $1.2 billion total for the light rail extension that runs from North Bergen to Bayonne.
The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail boasts more than 35,000 weekday trips. With the opening of the Union City/Bergenline Avenue station and the North Bergen/Tonnelle Avenue station, commuting has increased more than 38 percent in 2007 over the same period last year.