News & Reviews News Wire FTA tells NJ Transit to redo environmental report for light rail project

FTA tells NJ Transit to redo environmental report for light rail project

By | August 31, 2023

Latest version of report for Northern Branch Extension of Hudson-Bergen line had been awaiting review for five years

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Map of proposed New Jersey light rail line
The proposed Northern Branch Extension of NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line faces a delay after the Federal Transit Adminstration orderred an update to its environmental report. NJ Transit

NEWARK, N.J. — NJ Transit plans to extend its Hudson-Bergen light rail line by 9 miles into Bergen County face a potential two-year delay after the Federal Transit Administration rescinded plans to act on the project’s Environmental Impact Study, saying additional information is needed.

The FTA’s decision to rescind its “Notice of Intent” for what NJ Transit calls its Northern Branch Extension was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday. It says that decision is based on “all-encompassing changes” to design and environmental impacts that have occurred regarding matters such as floodplains, stormwater management, traffic and parking, and air quality. The original report was completed in 2007; three supplemental drafts have been completed since, the most recent in 2018. reports NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith said the additional work on the environmental report could take up to two years. Smith also said much of the original supplemental draft version of the document is still relevant and can be used as a starting point for a new report.

State officials expressed outrage over the decision, which followed a five-year wait for the FTA to review the latest supplemental version of the draft environmental statement. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy — noting that the FTA is asking for more information on this project, while other federal officials have turned down a state request for further environmental study on a state of New York plan for congestion pricing for drivers entering Manhattan — called the situation “a complete double standard” in a statement.

“USDOT claims to want more mass transit,” Murphy said in the statement, “but is putting up random roadblocks left and right.”

The 17-mile, 24-station Hudson-Bergen currently runs from Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen to two endpoints in Bayonne, N.J., connecting with PATH trains at two locations and with NJ Transit commuter rail at Hoboken Terminal. The planned extension would run north from Tonnelle Avenue, following West Side Avenue, then use CSX Transportation right-of-way to reach Ridgefield, Palisades Park, Leonia, and Englewood, N.J. In 2017, NJ Transit said the extension was projected to add 24,740 weekday trips to a system that was then averaging about 52,000 weekday trips.




6 thoughts on “FTA tells NJ Transit to redo environmental report for light rail project

  1. Hurry up and wait. Red tape. Study after study. Now you know why nothing gets done in this country anymore. By the time when/if construction starts, the price will be 5-10 times the original estimate. Just look at California High Speed Rail that’s under construction.

  2. Interesting. The first report was in 2007. With a 2-year delay in the current report, it takes us to 2025, 18 years later for a 9-mile line; specifically 2 years per mile of an existing right of way.

    Things that make you say, “Hmmmmm.”

  3. This is New Jersey we are talking about here. Like New York, New Jersey is a “pay to play” state. Obviously, the money is not flowing into the right pockets.

  4. All this mumbo-jumbo over providing commuter service on an existing R-o-W, the former E-L Rwy Northern Branch, which still provides branch line freight service. Politically, I don’t like gov. subsidized rail operations, but this Northern Branch issue has been going on for many years, and all those combined bureaucratic and political legal costs must exceed any perceived construction upgrade costs that could have been done a few years ago.

    If NJT wants to run light rail on an existing freight branch, then I would suggest building high voltage type catenary in lieu of light trolley wire and still operate the light rail with 600-750 volts for the time being until such time as the light rail line can further upgrade andmerge together with the other NJT high voltage commuter operations, hopefully making further mass transit upgrades more economically feasible and cost effective. And that could also contribute to total electrification of all railroads in the future, as we recently discussed just this past week on another Trains’ forum.

    The Northern Branch does not end at Englewood Hospital, but continues beyond to the NJ-NY state line at Norwood and Northvale, NJ, for local freight. Once upon a time, the Northern Branch used to continue to Nyack NY where the old R-o-W is still visible and maybe useable. And it also connected with the Piermont Branch at Sparkhill, NY, that used to connect all the way west to the Suffern, NY commuter train storage yard, on the E-L Rwy mainline, but now has been partially segmented and abandoned, used only for freight from Suffern east to Monsey, and embargoed from Monsey to Spring Valley due to a simple washout. That part of the past Piermont Branch between Spring Valley and Nanuet is/was concurrent with the Pascack Valley line, (formerly the NJ-NY RR) and today heavily used for commuter service, and perhaps some freight to Spring Valley as well(?).

    BTW, the old Piermont Branch was where Daniel Webster took his famous train ride in the 1830s, what was then known as the Erie RR mainline to Piermont on the Hudson River shipping port, for NYC freight and passengers. When the Piermont Branch between Nanuet and Nyack, NY was first embargoed in the 70s, I tried to get some knowlegable RR buff people interested in using that segment as a trolley museum operation, and even a possible shuttle connection to the NJ-NY commuter line at Nanuet, but no one seemed interested, and that line segment was eventually abandoned later on, and the rails torn up. I haven’t been back there in over 45 years, but I’ll bet that Piermont Branch, Nanuet to Nyack segment R-o-W is still viable, as I recall the Palisades Interstate Parkway had even built a steel RR bridge over that highway which I believe may still be intact for pedestrians???

    However, my point is; there are lots of opportunities to resurrect and electrify the old Northern and Piermont Branches to harvest many potential commuters by both NJT and it’s NY MTA operating partner. Woodbine passenger yard operations in Spring Valley, NY could be shut down and relocated west on the Pierment Branch to the existing Suffern, NY passenger yard, picking up many commuters by the Pascack Valley trains on the west end of the Piermont Branch, in the process. Oh well, I’m not holding my breathe, at my age, I’ll probably never see all the above come to fruition. lol!

    1. I should further mention that over the many years, when I lived back in NJ, I recall discussion and/or news reports about reviving commuter trains on the parallel West Shore line, just a few miles apart from the Northern Branch. And as I recall, once both lines reached further south to Bogota, they are also joined in parallel by the NYS&W RR, another sometime commuter line revival discussion, mostly all running concurrent and more-or-less parallel to U.S. Routes 1 & 9 (Tonelle Ave.) to and by E-L Rwy’s Croxton Yard at Jersey City, where I used to work for E-L Rwy. And NYS&W stopped short of Jersey City to make a commuter connection near Hwy 3 to the Lincoln Tunnel, with busses IIRC.

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