MOM info released by NJ Transit

Nine stations may align selected route for commuter rail

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Monmouth Junction  to Lakehurst Commuter Rail AlternativeMonmouth Junction to Lakehurst Commuter Rail Alternative

(Editor’s note: Greater Media Newspapers will present several articles on this issue that will detail what the preliminary study may suggest for this rail line. We will try and give a comprehensive view as to what these proposals may mean to the communities mentioned in the study.)

The public is getting its first look at where NJ Transit may put railroad stations along the proposed Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex commuter line.

According to preliminary information from NJ Transit, nine candidate stations are being proposed to line the controversial plan to use Conrail freight lines to connect Lake-hurst in Ocean County with Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick, Middlesex County.

Two other alignments connecting the service to the North Jersey Coast Line in Red Bank, and the Northeast Corridor in Matawan are also being studied as part of a Draft Environmen-tal Impact Study (DEIS) by Systra Consulting of Bloom-field.

Matawan to Lakehurst Commuter Rail AlternativeMatawan to Lakehurst Commuter Rail Alternative

The DEIS was commissioned in 2001 by NJ Transit to update a 1996 Major Investment Survey.

That survey turned the idea of the MOM line away in favor of enhanced bus service on the Route 9 corridor.

Former Executive Director Jeffrey Warsh revived the rail alternative in 2000, calling for all three alignments to be constructed to deal with an increase in population in the region.

Also in 2001, the state passed legislation making a Central Jersey commuter-rail link part of the state’s Circle of Mobility legislation.

Red Bank to Lakehurst Commuter Rail AlternativeRed Bank to Lakehurst Commuter Rail Alternative

That move made the project eligible for federal funding.

While the line has support in Monmouth and Ocean counties, Middlesex County and the towns of Monroe, Jamesburg and South Brunswick oppose the line.

The recent information was released during the last of three open houses sponsored by NJ Transit to provide information to the public on how the DEIS would be crafted and what issues would be addressed.

The latest meeting, held at the Marriott hotel on Forsgate Drive in South Brunswick on June 3, provided the opportunity for the public to learn about the proposed $400 million project, and to submit written comments on the preliminary findings of the study.

The DEIS is not scheduled to be completed until next year, according to NJ Transit.

In addition to the three alternatives, NJ Transit will also look at other improvements that do not require building the line.

The study estimates the total population of the region to be served as 1,880,000 as of the 2000 census.

A total of 16 communities in Monmouth County, five com-munities in Ocean County, and three communities in Middlesex County were looked at as part of the study, according to NJ Transit.

Two communities in Somer-set County and five in Mercer were also considered as part of the MOM line service area.

According to the preliminary study, the population in Monmouth County is expected to increase by almost 10 percent by 2025, while Ocean County is expected to increase by 36 percent, and Middlesex by 25 percent.

Tables in the report also suggest that employment in the region will grow even more rapidly than the population with a 112 percent increase in employment in South Brunswick alone by 2025.

According to the study, the increase in population and employment will deteriorate the air quality for the region and help demonstrate the need for commuter rail.

The plan also calls for the line to improve mobility and transportation access in the region, preserve and enhance the environment, and develop an efficient rail system.

According to the report, 11 alternatives were studied in the 1996 report, which included the three rail alternatives as well as road construction projects and light rail alternatives.

The report finds that, while the enhanced bus service on Route 9 has helped somewhat, "these improvements alone have not been able to meet the long-term needs of the study area."

Out of the 11 alternatives, five were advanced for further study.

Those five alternatives were: a no-build alternative; road modification and repairs; enhanced bus service; a Lakewood to Monmouth Junction rail; and a Lakewood to Red Bank rail.

The Lakewood to Matawan rail was initially dropped because a lower number of car trips would be diverted with that alternative, it had the second highest number of residential structures within 100 feet of the railway, and would require a complete reconstruction of the rail line between Freehold and Matawan.

That segment, however, was placed back on the table after state Sen. Peter Inverso (R-14) asked to reconsider the alignment in the DEIS.