CRANFORD - The Regional Plan Association is set to hold a public presentation on the topic of “A Preventable Crisis, The Economic and Human Costs of a Hudson River Rail Tunnel Shutdown."

Commuters, area residents, business owners, elected officials, community groups, and other stakeholders can help advocate for mass transit improvements by attending a free public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16, at the Cranford Community Center, 220 Walnut Avenue in Cranford. The meeting is hosted by the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, which includes representatives from four counties along NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line, with a total population of 1.7 million.

The Regional Plan Association, a non-profit public policy agency that examines various issues, will present information from their report detailing the costs of a potential Hudson River rail tunnel shutdown, the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition announced. The report details the devastating economic and quality-of-life impact that any extended closures of the rapidly, deteriorating 108-year-old Hudson River train tunnels would have on the regional economy, including Union County. 

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All are welcome to attend the free event. The Cranford Community Center is ADA accessible and free parking is located on-site.

“A preventable crisis is brewing under the Hudson River in the form of aging, outdated rail tunnels that are urgently in need of repair, making it all the more imperative to secure funding for a new tunnel,” said Union County Freeholder Chair and RVRC Trustee Bette Jane Kowalski in a release. “By joining our voices together we can more effectively communicate our concerns and advocate for action, both at the state and federal level.”

Union County has eight NJ Transit train stations on the Raritan Valley Line, which has been beleaguered by delays and cancellations, as do three other member counties of the RVRC -- Hunterdon Middlesex, and Somerset.

The evening will also include information on various other transit-related issues.

The Gateway Project has been described as the largest and most economically significant infrastructure project currently under planning in the U.S. Consisting of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and related work, Gateway will have a direct impact on New Jersey and New York City, as well as the entire metro area and the northeastern U.S.

The Gateway improvements are located in the heart of the Northeast Corridor, the most heavily used passenger train line in the country. It accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. An estimated 10 percent of U.S. GDP depends on transit between New York and New Jersey alone.

The Northeast Corridor carries more than 800,000 passengers in 2,000 trains daily across eight states and Washington, D.C. In 2016, Amtrak reported that implementation of the full Gateway project could generate $3.87 worth of economic benefits for every $1 spent.

The Raritan Valley Line carries 23,500 passengers daily, making it NJ Transit’s third most-used rail line. Though thousands of riders use it for their daily commute to Penn Station in New York City, the Raritan Valley Line employs diesel locomotives that are not permitted the Hudson River tunnels. As a result, riders are forced to disembark in Newark each time and wait for an electric train.

The effort achieved partial success in 2014, when NJ Transit acquired dual-mode locomotives that could travel through the tunnels. However, the one-seat opportunity never expanded beyond a limited, off-peak trial. It was suspended in 2018 as NJ Transit focused on other priorities.

The Coalition can be reached on email at info@Raritanvalleyrail.com. For additional information visit online at raritanvalleyrail.com, follow on Facebook at facebook.com/raritanvalleyrail, or follow on Twitter at twitter.com/rvrailcoalition.