Westfield needs leadership that advocates forcefully for Westfield rail needs. It is unforgiveable that Governor Christie cancelled the ARC tunnel Project (which would have been completed in 2018), has failed to pursue other critically needed rail infrastructure needs and has not been responsive to the Raritan Valley Coalition’s push for peak hour (rush hour) one seat rides to and from Manhattan. Looking forward, Westfield's leaders must be out front fighting for Westfield's transit needs regardless of the politics. The current situation hurts Westfield's residents, economy and property values.
A "one-seat ride" on NJ Transit to and from Manhattan, i.e., a ride without changing trains in Newark, is currently available on certain off-peak hour trains, but not during rush hours because there is limited rail tunnel capacity. It's time the Raritan Valley Line gets its fair share of the existing capacity. NJ Transit is currently dependent upon two 105 year old tunnels to get to and from Manhattan. These tunnels are shared with Amtrak, provide capacity for 23 trains per hour, and sorely need rehabilitation due to age and damage from Super Storm Sandy. The need for rehabilitation of these tunnels (either planned or in response to a failure in one of the tunnels) risks substantial, prolonged disruption of the existing NJ Transit services.
After almost two decades of planning, ARC tunnel construction started in 2009, but was cancelled in 2010 by New Jersey Governor Christie, stating the fiscal concerns of New Jersey’s exposure for cost overruns. At the time of cancellation, it was expected to be complete in 2018 at an estimated cost of $9.8 to $12.4 Billion. A long list of respected non-partisan authorities, institutions and publications in our region supported the ARC tunnel and opposed its 2010 cancelation. In contrast, Westfield’s leaders were silent following the lead of Governor Christie.
In 2011, the Gateway Tunnel Project was proposed to provide a similar increase in rail tunnel capacity across the Hudson. It is currently projected to cost $16 Billion, and would be completed by 2025 at the very earliest. Thirty million dollars are available this year in the Amtrak budget for planning and design work, but as of today there is no other federal funding. The Port Authority has no funding for this project, even though it has in its 10 year plan $1.5 billion for funding the extension of the PATH train to Newark Airport – a line which is redundant to the current NJ Transit line to Newark Airport. The federal Transportation Department announced that President Obama considers the Gateway rail tunnel to be the nation's No. 1 rail transportation priority – making it imperative for our leaders to work now to obtain funding for the project.
If elected to town council, we will be tireless advocates for Westfield’s rail and transit needs. This summer we have already started this advocacy with an on-line petition to Governor Christie. Perhaps you’ve seen one or more of us at the station handing out materials asking people to sign the petition.
Please sign the petition at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/gov-christie-take-action-now-to-support-the (or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for the link) and support us at the polls in November.
Dan Ortolani, Candidate, Westfield Town Council, Ward 1 (Democrat)
Marty Rothfelder, Candidate, Westfield Town Council, Ward 3 (Democrat)
Kim Palmieri-Mouded, Candidate, Westfield Town Council, Ward 4 (Democrat)