ELIZABETH, NJ—The Governor-Elect already has a decision to make on his first day in office.
Mayor J. Christian Bollwage is calling upon the Governor-Elect to remove the New Jersey Transit Executive Team of their positions and appoint pro-active, capable individuals, who are in favor of rail improvements. The Mayor has requested that this action be taken in response to New Jersey Transit causing an obstacle to the Elizabeth Midtown Train Station reconstruction project.
A press conference was held in the City of Elizabeth in 2015, to unveil the new project design for the $55-million-dollar reconstruction of the Elizabeth Midtown Train Station. At this event, Bollwage was joined by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, Congressman Albio Sires, State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, Union County Freeholder Sergio Granados, Union County Freeholder Vernell Wright, Union County Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski, Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste, Councilman-At-Large Manny Grova Jr., Councilman Kevin Kiniery, Councilman Carlos Torres, New Jersey Transit Executive Director Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, along with Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit Board Chairman Jamie Fox.
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According to the mayor's office, since that announcement 2 years ago, the mayor has had repeated meetings, numerous correspondence and conversations with New Jersey Transit, and requested meetings in order to ascertain project schedules and timelines for completion of the new station.
“Under the leadership of Governor Chris Christie, the New Jersey Transit Executive Team has done more to harm the traveling public than to provide the support and quality services that residents, as well as all commuters, deserve,” Bollwage said, “It is beyond disgraceful that years later, the status of this project is still a discussion point.”
The delay, according to New Jersey Transit, was due to Amtrak and their decision regarding the disposition as well as the exact location of proposed NEC track improvements at or near the station. After receiving this response Bollwage contacted Amtrak officials, who stated that those issues had been resolved; however, their issue was now with New Jersey Transit’s refusal to pay rent for the use of New York’s Penn Station. According to officials, as a result of this non-compliance, Amtrak placed all new projects in New Jersey on hold.
Amtrak said they would be willing to move the City of Elizabeth project forward if New Jersey Transit would agree to make a payment on the outstanding balance due according to officials.
NJ Transit has fallen so far behind on payments to Amtrak for use of the Northeast Corridor rail line that the over-all bill stands at $90 million according to sources.
“I thank Amtrak for their efforts to safeguard and respect the riding public. Amtrak has consistently worked with my office on achieving a solution, yet New Jersey Transit has remained a bureaucratic obstacle in this entire process,” Bollwage said. “The City of Elizabeth as well as the general public, should not continue to be punished for the arrogance, displaced pride and disappointing disregard for commitments displayed by New Jersey Transit.”