Broken promise? Still no train station at North Brunswick ‘transit village’
NORTH BRUNSWICK — "Shop. Dine. Ride. Live." Despite the long-running motto, only three of those are actually an option at the Main Street development.
Even though the project along Route 1, for years, has been promoted as a "transit village," and the catalyst for creation of the village was a proposed new train station along the Northeast Corridor line, the rail cars keep whizzing by today. Even if they wanted to stop to pick up residents or visitors of the neighborhood, there's no station.
But the promise of such convenient access to public transportation was enough to bring in major retailers such as Costco and Target. Sports bar and grille The Greene Turtle is now open, and people are moving into townhouses on the property.
A letter dated Mar. 1, 2013 from Gov. Chris Christie "proudly authorized" New Jersey Transit's construction of a new rail station in North Brunswick, calling it an investment in the town and region by shortening commutes, reducing congestion and pollution, and improving access to numerous destinations.
Four years later, NJ Transit tells New Jersey 101.5 the North Brunswick station is in the "concept design" phase. But it's not included in the agency's current capital program, nor do they have the funding, spokesman Jim Smith said.
"There are a number of worthy projects around the state which we evaluate and move forward as funding becomes available," he said. "We have advanced the design of the proposed station, which allows NJ Transit to have a more refined cost estimate, identify property and other needs, and an understanding of the scope. Additionally, we will need to identify funding sources which may include support from the developer, the state (Transportation Trust Fund or otherwise), or a third party."
Martin Robins, director emeritus of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers, has been following this project closely since inception. It was considered a "showcase project" for the coordination of transit investment and private investment, he said. But somewhere in the process, officials pulled back and practically went silent.
"What has happened is that New Jersey has gone back on its word," Robins said. "They built up a lot of expectations and now they're saying there's no money for it. That's unacceptable."
Robins believes the proposed train station will become a reality one day, but the wild delay with this project could put similar ideas in jeopardy in the future.
"I can assure you that there's no one that you can find that's going to say this is a bad project or that it shouldn't have been done," he said. "It's just a question of will and financial will."
The Northeast Corridor is the most traveled stretch of rail lines in the country. The North Brunswick neighborhood sits on the longest stretch without a stop.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.