WESTFIELD, NJ – Assemblywoman Linda Stender told the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (RVRC) at its Monday morning meeting in Westfield that the “one-seat” ride was its most important issue and “the squeaky wheel” would be the one to “get the grease”.
RVRC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has pushed for 15 years for a direct train into Manhattan for the Raritan Valley line, the only NJTransit rail line with track connectivity that doesn’t have a “one-seat” service into New York. Riders on the line destined for Midtown Manhattan must change trains in Newark.
Stender, who serves as vice-chairperson of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, said, “It’s mostly about political will and the fastest way to get that is for there to be a strong advocacy from groups like the RVRC.”
The stumbling block to a “one-seat” ride on the Raritan Valley Line has been the inability of diesel locomotives to go through the Hudson River tunnel. The Raritan Valley Line is powered exclusively by diesel locomotives.
However, this stumbling block was seemingly removed--and “one-seat’ service became attainable--when NJTransit began purchasing three dozen dual-powered locomotives that can switch from diesel to electric with a flip of a switch and a two minute wait.
Martin E. Robins, a RVRC Trustee from Union County, called the availability of these locomotives “a game-changer” for the Raritan Valley Line. The purchase of these specialized locomotives cost over $340 million.
“The monies have been spent, the locomotives are proven already and there’s more than enough to serve our line,” said Robins, who is also director emeritus of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University.
“The highest and best--and really, almost the only--use of the dual-powered locomotives is on a line like the Raritan Valley Line. How can NJTransit diddle around with this subject for so long, after having made an expenditure of $340 million, and not take advantage of it? To me, it’s unthinkable.”
Plainfield Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Dunn commented on the need to keep the issue bipartisan and to focus on the major economic gains that a “one-seat” ride would bring to every community along the line.
RVRC Chairman Peter Palmer also referenced the potential for major growth, using the 30 percent increase in property values along the Morris and Essex line when that line achieved a “one-seat” ride back in 1996 as the biggest reason why this issue should get major attention from NJTransit.
Mindy Scarlett, Managing Editor of The Alternative Press of Scotch Plains and Fanwood, then presented the new RVRC website that will be used to create the public awareness needed to build a strong advocacy campaign.
“The most important page on the site is the Action page,” Scarlett said. “We need everyone to go to that page and take every action on the page--from making a donation, to e-mailing NJTransit to sending a letter to their legislators. Like Assemblywoman Stender said, we have to be the squeaky wheel.”
The new website address is www.raritanvalleyrail.com