Saturday, September 12, 2009

Transit agencies may study train service to Flemington, NJ

Following article is from The Star-Ledger (NJ).

Transit agencies may study train service to Flemington

by Veronica Slaght/For The Star-Ledger
Tuesday September 08, 2009

FLEMINGTON -- Extending rail service to Flemington is one step closer to reality.

"We have had positive feedback from the NJTPA (North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority)" in response to a request for funding to study the idea, said Hunterdon Freeholder Matt Holt.

The study would evaluate the viability and cost of extending train service to Flemington, Holt said.

The NJTPA's board of trustees has to formally vote before the funding is made official, according to David Behrend, spokesman for the planning authority. That could be anytime between the board's next meeting in November and the first quarter of 2010, he said.

In general, however, the organization has endorsed extending train service to Flemington, Behrend said today.

He said the concept, which calls for running trains from Flemington to Bound Brook, where they would connect to NJ Transit's Raritan Valley Line, is supported by the regional transportation plan and considered a candidate for future funding.

Freeholder Holt said the feasibility study would be the first step in a long-term project.

"Even if we begin a study in 2010, we're looking at 10-plus years before we see the first piece of rail," he said. "It won't happen overnight."

Holt said this kind of study typically costs around $200,000. It would most likely be conducted by NJ Transit, he said, which would also likely operate any trains that run on those rails in the future.

"But who builds it and where the money comes from -- no one knows," Holt said.

The concept calls for utilizing existing track between Flemington and Bound Brook. About 18 miles are freight-only, used by Norfolk-Southern, so an additional track would need to be added to that stretch, he said. But no easements or land acquisition would be necessary because the track lines already exist. The only other work would likely be bridge improvements, he said.

Extending rail service to Flemington would ideally alleviate traffic on routes 202 and 206, Holt said.

Aside from the bus to New York City, the western part of the state is largely lacking public transportation.

"We in this area have our cars," said Holt. "We need to move beyond that."

The trains would stop at multiple places between Flemington and Bound Brook, which could help local economies in both Somerset and Hunterdon counties, said the freeholder.

NJ Transit is also studying adding more trains to the Raritan Valley Line, as well as possibly extending service to Hampton and possibly Phillipsburg.

It has been nearly 50 years since there was daily train service from Flemington to New York.