Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bound Brook train station renovations

Following article is from the Courier News of 6/5/08.

Repairs to begin at Bound Brook station


The fortune of this borough always has been dependent on railroads.

In the 19th century, three major railroads — the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Reading Railroad and the Lehigh Valley Railroad — came to the town, which became the flourishing industrial hub of Somerset County.

The passenger station on East Main Street served both the Central and Reading railroads, and people could board a train to either New York or Philadelphia.

But as the nation's commerce switched from the railroads to the interstate highways in the 1950s and 1960s, the fortunes of the three railroads began to fail and all declared bankruptcy. Passenger service stopped on the Reading, while trains on the Central still go to Newark with a transfer to New York.

As the railroads suffered, so did the main train station and the platform on the eastbound tracks of the Central Railroad, which also served the Reading line.

Officials see the railroads as a key component of Bound Brook's future with its designation as a transit village and the state still studying the reactivation of passenger service on the Reading tracks, which connects with Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority service in West Trenton.

The main station, now owned by the borough, became a restaurant in the mid-1980s, but the eastbound platform has fallen into a state of disrepair, its historic architectural features camouflaged by grafitti.

But that's all about to change.

Using both grant money and funds left over from other capital projects, the borough council has voted to go ahead with the restoration of the eastbound platform. Both the eastbound platform and the main station were placed on the state and federal Registers of Historic Places in 1984.

In 2005, Bound Brook received a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation for the project, said Council President Jim Lefkowitz.

The borough hired Dennis Kowal Associates, an architectural firm, to draw up plans and specifications for the project.

The project then went out to bid in fall 2007, after several public hearings and protracted meetings between the borough and state Transportation Department officials.

But the project was derailed as the bids came in about $150,000 above grant funding, Lefkowitz said.

The borough then worked with the architectural firm to cut costs and, at its May 27 meeting, the council voted to use the money left over from other projects to make up the difference.

"It was time we put our money where our mouths were," Lefkowitz said.

The $625,000 restoration will be in two phases, Lefkowitz said.

The first phase will concentrate on the interior of the structure and will include a new electrical system, lighting, ceiling fans, heating and a new public address system. The brick building will have new insulation, wall coverings, ceramic tiles, painting and windows.

The second phase will focus on the renovation of the existing canopy, a new fence and new exterior lighting.

Lefkowitz said the work is expected to begin in August with a completion date in early 2009.

Michael Deak can be reached at (908) 707-3134 or mdeak@mycentraljersey.com.