Survey shows support for MOM train proposal

Survey shows support
for MOM train proposal

At its meeting on Aug. 27, the Ocean County Board of Freeholders was presented with the results of a survey conducted to learn more about residents’ attitudes toward the proposed Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex (MOM) rail passenger project.

A similar briefing was scheduled for the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders meeting on Aug. 28.

According to a press release from the Monmouth County public information office, these results are being used to help guide the continuing efforts to organize and mobilize citizen support for the project, which is currently under review by NJ Transit. The briefing comes as Congress prepares to deal with the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act — a key funding mechanism for the proposed MOM rail line.

Among other things, the survey confirmed several assumptions about resident attitudes and shed some light on the depth of support that the rail project has among area residents:

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed placed reducing traffic, managing growth or improving mass transit as the most or second most important issue facing their county today. A total of 89 percent say that road and traffic congestion is a problem in their area.

Of the 68 percent of those surveyed who say they have heard of the MOM passenger rail project, over half have a favorable opinion of the project.

When residents were given a brief description of the route through which the Lakehurst to Monmouth Junction align­ment would run, support for the project climbed to 78 percent. A total of 60 per­cent of those surveyed indicated that they or someone in their house would be likely to use the service and 65 percent indicated that they would be interested in having a station located in their area.

A total of 73 percent of those surveyed believe that area growth and development is going to happen no matter what and that more should be done to plan for and man­age that growth. A total of 72 percent say that the MOM project represents smart growth planning and more than three quarters (78 percent) agree that the MOM passenger rail project is a good way to help reduce traffic congestion.

"This survey demonstrates that residents are looking for and are ready to support smart ways to reduce traffic congestion and manage growth," said Ocean County Freeholder James J. Mancini, who serves as liaison to transportation. "Traffic con­gestion and managing growth are at the top of the residents’ list of local concerns and problems."

"The survey results strongly indicate that more must be done to alleviate traffic and congestion. Survey respondents see the MOM project, and particularly the Lakehurst to Monmouth Junction align­ment, as an effective way to address this problem," added Monmouth County Freeholder Deputy Director Thomas J. Powers.

According to the press release, Ocean and Monmouth county officials are con­tinuing their efforts to convince federal and state agencies to support the Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex rail line, in particular fi­nancially, in order to bring this important transportation project to fruition.

With key dates approaching for federal aid, the Ocean County and Monmouth County freeholders are both focusing their efforts on convincing federal representa­tives that this rail line is needed now more than ever.

Since Ocean and Monmouth counties accounted for 20 percent of the total popu­lation growth in New Jersey from 1990 to 2000, both boards are anxious to get the needed funding to move this rail line for­ward in order to correct some of the con­gestion problems being experienced in the area.

"Western Monmouth where this pro­posed line will be located has grown 25 percent since 1990," said Freeholder Theodore J. Narozanick, who also serves as chairman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. "Monmouth is taking a proactive approach in promoting smart growth. Our Western Monmouth Smart Growth Study is nearing completion and strongly recommends the proposed MOM passenger rail line as one of the key strategies to reduce the rapidly growing traffic congestion in this region."

"This area is one of the most desirable areas in which to live," Mancini said. "This increase in growth is one of the strongest reasons to get the funding we need from the state and federal governments."

According to the press release, the restoration of passenger rail service to northern Ocean County and western Monmouth County has been a policy ob­jective of both counties for several decades. Specific recommendations for rail service have been endorsed by both coun­ties through the adoption of resolutions and of their respective comprehensive master plans.

In 1996, NJ Transit completed a Major Investment Study for the Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex project. That study con­cluded that transportation investment was needed in the primary study area due to the following reasons, which remain valid to­day:

• Growth and development in the region continue at high rates.

• Increased travel is causing congestion and stretching transit capacity.

• Delay affects all transit users, but commutes by bus or rail from the southern part of the primary study area generally take at least two hours from door to door and is steadily increasing as growth con­tinues.

• Air quality is a serious problem.

"The process we are currently in with NJ Transit is what will determine the suc­cess or failure of MOM," said Ocean County Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett Jr., referring to the environmental impact study being done by NJ Transit. "Without a favorable record of decision, this project would be ineligible to receive federal funding.

"Monmouth and Ocean counties have worked too hard and for too long not to have this project gain the status it needs to get federal funding," he said. "It’s essential for the success of MOM that all levels of government hear us so we can receive the funding and support necessary so we can finally get this project advanced."

"There is a unique opportunity to be proactive and truly engage in smart growth planning here. MOM will help us better plan for and manage the growth that is ex­pected to come in the next 20 years. We need to make sure that all the players at the state and federal levels understand just how important this is to our future," said Narozanick.

According to the press release, the sur­vey was conducted on June 19 by McLaughlin and Associates, a national survey research firm out of Alexandria, Va. The survey spoke with 400 respondents in the Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean county towns which are on or contiguous to the proposed Lakehurst to Monmouth Junction alignment.

Those communities are Colts Neck, Englishtown, Farmingdale, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan, Marlboro, Millstone, Tinton Falls and Wall Township in Monmouth County; Berkeley Township, Brick, Dover, Jackson, Lakehurst, Lakewood and Manchester in Ocean County; and Cranbury, East Brunswick, Jamesburg, Monroe, North Brunswick, Plainsboro and South Brunswick in Middlesex County.