JERSEY CITY, NJ - Many local officials, including Mayor Steven Fulop who called it “great news”, were pleased when Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he intended to add the extension of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail to Route 440 in Jersey City to his list of priorities.
But the hard part is still ahead, County Executive Tom DeGise warned, adding the project will need more than $225 million to accomplish.
“There was no mention of money,” DeGise said. “While we’ve already received $7 million from grants from the North Jersey Transportation Authority to do engineering studies, we still need to find the money to buy the land and do the construction.”
To extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail one quarter mile further could make a new “gold coast” out of the west side of Jersey City, DeGise said.
The extension of the light rail line would proceed from its current terminus at West Side Avenue in Jersey City. “That last little stretch is going to make a difference between developing there or not,” DeGise said.
He said the extension from West Side Avenue to Route 440 near the Hackensack River would increase the potential for development of a 96-acre site called “Bayfront.” Without light rail service, the site will generate about 4,000 units. With the extension, he said, the site will create about 8,200 units.
It would also support the growth of New Jersey City University’s campus.
Last year, the city of Jersey City took sole procession of the Bayfront property with the intention of serving as master developer for what Fulop hopes will provide the city with desperately needed affordable housing.
The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system stops at West Side Avenue a few blocks from the site.
Future plans would connect it directly to the Bayfront development and provide direct access to Manhattan via the PATH system. Bayfront also offers easy access to a well-established and expansive mass transit system and roadway network that would connect residents to the rest of the Tri-State area.
In order to help meet the price tag Degise said state officials would have to apply to the federal government/s New Starts program, a pot of about $2 billion. “Senator Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires are working on getting us $100 million in federal funds for the project,” DeGise said offering his analyses that they have submitted a “winning application."
“But it will be up to the state to get us money as well. Jersey City would have to kick in some money.”
Weighing in on the efforts of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, including US Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, to secure the funding was Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ-8) who said that it was “all hands on deck.”
“There are few things more important to a city, and region, than being able to move people around efficiently and safely. This project will have a major positive impact, not just in Jersey City but throughout Hudson County, and is one I will personally be making sure gets the attention it should.”
If this project is accomplished, property values on the west side of Jersey City could double, some local leaders have predicted.
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