WESTFIELD, NJ — The town’s government has officially joined the chorus of municipalities seeking the restoration of direct train service from the Raritan Valley Line into Manhattan, something that started in 2014.
The Town Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution being sent to state officials, which seeks “immediate restoration of the off-peak hour, ‘one-seat ride’ to NY Penn Station.” The advocacy comes as NJ Transit reports a shortage of trains and locomotive engineers while it implements a federal safety requirement.
The Westfield council’s resolution backs the efforts of the Raritan Valley Line Mayors Alliance, a group of mayors in Union, Somerset, Hunterdon and Middlesex, which last year formed to advocate for improved train service along the Raritan Valley Line.
“All 31 Mayors that comprise the RVL Mayors’ Alliance are doing the same to demonstrate our unity and resolve in demanding a timeline and commitment to restoration of the off-peak one-seat ride,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle.
Fanwood’s Borough council adopted the measure earlier this month and the Mayors’ Alliance confirmed that Garwood, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Dunellen and High Bridge are among the municipalities on board.
The resolution comes on the heels of the Union County Freeholder Board’s March 14 statement in support of a bill pending in the state Legislature, which would require NJ Transit to conduct a feasibility study on the return of the full-time direct service to Manhattan.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Nicholas Scutari and Sen. Tom Kean Jr. requires the study to be completed within six months of the Legislation’s approval and that report then be submitted to the governor.
Westfield’s council approved its measure on the same evening during which the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition held a public forum in Cranford to present on the Gateway Project, which is the planned expansion of rail tunnels from New Jersey into New York City.
Despite that forum’s focus on the Gateway Project, Bruce Bergen, a former Union County Freeholder, who chairs the rail coalition representing Raritan Valley riders said the coalition continues to push for the restoration of the direct service into New York City, and he recently told the NJ Transit such directly.
“Reinstatement and thereafter expansion of the one-seat ride is absolutely paramount to the quality of life to the tens of thousands of riders each day on the Raritan Valley Line,” Bergen said at the forum, which was live-streamed.
NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder on Thursday reiterated existing concerns about equipment availability and staff as the transportation agency implements the safety requirement, known as positive train control.
NJ Transit had no updated timeline for the restoration of the one-seat ride service.
Snyder also noted that construction continues at Moynihan Train Hall in Manhattan and at New York Penn Station.
“The main challenges to peak one-seat rides for the Raritan Valley line remain lack of capacity in the Hudson River tunnels, lack of track space at NY Penn station and lack of identified funding,” Snyder said.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh