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Extension of 7 Train makes fiscal sense for New Jersey

titteljeff021110_optBY JEFF TITTEL
COMMENTARY

For a very long time there have been people who have had a common sense solution to our transit problems. Sierra Club members, and our volunteers have worked on the concept to extend the 7 train from New York to Lautenberg station in Secaucus. This project would be more cost effective and much more efficient in getting commuters to their destination in New York. Now that the ARC tunnel is officially dead, it's time to look at alternatives for improving the region's transportation system.

This idea has recently been praised by senior New York officials and even Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Now New Jersey's elected officials are jumping on board. This train is leaving the station and is gathering momentum.

Governor Christie cancelled the ARC tunnel project because of cost since New York was not putting money towards the project. Mayor Bloomberg is interested in the 7 train project and in putting in money for the cost. Now Governor Christie needs to step up and show leadership. The Governor needs to put together a summit with Mayor Bloomberg, the Governor of New York and the Senators of both states. He then needs to fight to get back the 3 billion in federal transportation money we lost because of the cancellation of ARC tunnel project.

Steve Lanset and Ralph Braskett have been working on this idea for years. Lanset is the Transportation Committee chair for the NJ Sierra Club and was recently given our volunteer of the year award for his work on this project and others.

Instead of the tunnel to Macy's basement, we will have the subway to Shea Stadium/Citi Field. This project makes much more sense from a transportation standpoint, a regional standpoint, and a financial standpoint.

We've believed for a long time this is one of the alternatives that would make transit better. During our comments on the ARC Tunnel, we suggested incorporating an extension of the 7 Train to improve transportation in the region.

Under this proposal, the 7 Train, which goes to the west side of Manhattan, would be extended under the Hudson River to the Secaucus transfer station. From there, commuters could transfer from New Jersey trains. Commuters coming in to New York could transfer anywhere because the 7 Train is connected to all the other train lines. The 7 Train not only goes to East Side of Manhattan but also to Queens. This option would help New Jersey commuters gain access to the region and New Yorkers access to New Jersey.

A lot of groups out there are still complaining about the ARC Tunnel. Now is the time to get beyond the ARC Tunnel and come up with a real transportation system that meets the needs of the people in the region. This project makes sense - both common sense and dollars and cents.

The extension of the 7 train makes fiscal sense for New Jersey. New York would aid in the costs associated with the project because it would be an MTA, not NJ Transit, project. The cost estimate of the 7 train option is $6 billion when the original ARC tunnel was estimated at $9 billion. Additionally, this option would be cheaper because we wouldn't need to rebuild the portal bridge, a rail yard, or tracks in Manhattan and a station in New York. Those elements already exist; we would need just a tunnel to New Jersey.

The concept of extending the 7 train has been around for quite awhile, but has never been taken seriously. The Sierra Club proposed the 7 train as one of the options during the hearings. The 7 train extension was opposed by NJ Transit because they believed it would lead revenue loss from travelers in Secaucus transferring to MTA. Also, they wouldn't control the train. The state of New York didn't support it originally because it didn't think MTA should be servicing New Jersey. The Port Authority also opposed it because they felt it would compete with their PATH system. We also would not have to wait for Amtrak to decide on when or if they would build a high speed rail line with the tunnel into New York.

The different groups in charge of mass transit have acted like spoiled children in the past each with their own set of choo choos. Now is the time for all the different agencies to come together to make this work. The commuters and the people of the region need this train line more than ever. At stake are thousands of jobs and a lot of economic development. The Riders of the Lost ARC must now get onboard and take the 7 train.

Jeff Tittel is the Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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TH

 

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