From the arrival of the railroad in Westfield in 1839 up to the year 2014, there was no direct train service to Manhattan. For 175 long years, no mayor or municipal body, of either party, in the dozen or so towns along what is now the Raritan Valley Line (RVL), could find a way to deliver that service. Mayor Skibitsky's administration did.
The RVL is not electrified, and diesel engines are not permitted in the Hudson River tunnels. But when NJ Transit purchased dual-power locomotives, our mayor, together with Senator Tom Kean and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, met personally with the executive director of NJ Transit and secured nine in-bound and nine out-bound weekday direct service trains.
Rather than give credit where credit is due, critics only say it is not enough. It isn't. But to suggest that a novice mayor in only one town along the RVL will have more success than the current administration — and more than all the other administrations along the RVL, Republican and Democrat — in bringing rush hour direct service to Westfield is ridiculous. Are the mayors of Union, Cranford, Fanwood, Plainfield, Bridgewater and other RVL towns all ineffective? Or is the issue beyond the control of any one mayor (or 10)?
Like many Westfielders, my wife is a daily commuter into Manhattan. I know how important it is that we get one-seat rides to New York City for all Westfield trains. When I first moved to Westfield 21 years ago, I was told that NJ Transit had been discussing direct train service to and from New York for decades. Mayors came and went, but still no direct service. Even when I was first elected to the town council, a one seat ride between Westfield and Manhattan appeared to be just a dream. Today, it is a reality, albeit an incomplete one.
Just like the solution for our current direct service was the state's purchase of dual-power locomotives, the only solution for rush hour one-seat rides is a new Hudson River tunnel. Westfield does not have $13 billion to construct that tunnel; nor do all the towns on the RVL combined. Any candidate who suggests that he or she is going to promptly secure $13 billion in funding for a new Hudson River tunnel is either disingenuous or naïve, or both.
Leaders with experience and proven results, like Mayor Skibitsky and me, are in a better position to advocate for the tunnel and deliver more direct service to Westfield. We know the players involved, and we have a great working relationship with the non-partisan Raritan Valley Rail Coalition and our state legislative leaders, including Senator Kean and Assemblyman Bramnick, who are directly involved in the state’s decision-making and funding process. The political newcomers in Westfield, who are effectively asking you to allow them to learn on the job, do not Please vote for experienced and effective leadership on November 7.