The Murphy administration and federal officials will begin revamping and upgrading some of the most heavily-used train stations in the state this fall, including a new $71 million train station – with the United States government picking up the majority of the tab on construction.
Four stations along the Northeast Corridor, which is owned by Amtrak, will see major improvements: the Trenton Transit Center and the New Brunswick, Princeton Junction, and the construction of an entirely new train station in Elizabeth which is already underway.
New Jersey Transit will provide 10 percent of the funding through the Transportation Trust Fund – which is financed by the gas tax – while the federal government will pay for the other 90 percent of the costs, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at a Tuesday morning press conference outside the New Brunswick Train Station.
Federal costs will be split between the federal transit and highway administrations.
All told, the upgrades will cost a combined $90 million between New Brunswick, Princeton and Elizabeth, and will take several years. Trenton’s upgrades are much smaller in scale and would be completed in a matter of months.
It is not clear if there are other upgrades outside these four stations.
“A modern, safe and reliable mass transit system will be the catalyst that we need to grow our economy and play a historic role as the home of leading institutions,” Murphy said.
The upgrades, Murphy added, are “critical for the transit-oriented development that will be the backbone of stronger communities where residents can live, work and play.” In Elizabeth, NJ Transit recently broke ground on a new station, of which $69 million is coming from the FTA and the other $2 million from the state government. Once the new station is completed in summer 2022, it will include new station buildings, longer platforms for passengers, beefed up security, and improved access for disabled patrons under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Improvements in New Brunswick will include a pedestrian walkway connecting the train station to the city’s Wellness Center, which are both separated by four lanes of traffic on Route 27 and should come online by fall 2021. Combined with an extended boarding platform, a new elevator, aesthetic work on the station exterior and waiting room, and a new escalator, New Brunswick’s price tag is roughly $21 million, of which $9 million is coming from the FHA.
Princeton Junction would have its boarding platform repainted, weather-proofed and given new concrete – a $1 million project paid for by the state that will be finished by winter 2020.
Trenton’s more minor renovations include the replacement of several timber safety boards.
“These things require Amtrak’s cooperation,” New Jersey Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said Tuesday.
Progress on upgrades for the stations has often-times hit bureaucratic roadblocks, Murphy said, between NJ Transit which owns the stations and uses the NEC, and Amtrak which actually owns the line.
But Tuesday’s announcement was still considered widely inadequate to cut down on the NJ Transit delays and cancellations that have hounded the Murphy administration for nearly two years and made up the bulk of commuter frustrations.
“It’s good that Amtrak will be spending money with NJ Transit to improve train stations. What we need to do, however, is make sure our trains get to those stations on time,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club environmental advocacy group.
On Monday, riders suffered 12 delays, 10 of them due to a shortage of engineers and the other two because of equipment problems, Murphy said – likely exasperated by Columbus Day.
This morning, that number was down to six delays – four because of staffing shortages and the other two equipment issues.