Regional Transportation & Economic Development Initiative
On Tuesday, May 12, 2009, in Woodbury, New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine announced his support for a proposal by the Delaware River Port Authority to expand rail service in Gloucester County, study Bus Rapid Transit along Routes 42 and 55, and study improvements on the New Jersey Transit 30th Street Station/Atlantic City Rail Line.
DRPA CEO and PATCO President, John J. Matheussen, provided the following information on the three pronged transit improvement plan that has been recommended by our study team and has the support of the Governor.
Today we are announcing a three-pronged transit improvement plan that has been recommended by our study team. Based on our finding for needed improvements, we have expanded our geographical scope and the variety of needs and challenges that influence and benefit from transit investments. The plan I am presenting is truly regional in nature and provides benefits to all of Southern New Jersey. It is a transportation and development plan that surpasses the simple needs of moving people from home to work. It is a plan that sustains and supports smart growth, grows our economy and protects our fragile environment.
The DRPA and PATCO fully support this program of improvements and is committed to bringing this plan to fruition in cooperation with NJDOT and NJTransit.
The plan includes three major elements:
- First, implementation of a light rail system from the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden to downtown Glassboro generally along the existing rail right of way and serving numerous established communities that grew up along that rail route at a time when railroads formed the fabric of our country. This is consistent with the state plan for growth and builds on recommendations from the State Office of Smart Growth that endorses Light Rail from Camden to Glassboro. This alternative also presents the most opportunity for development and re-development and will put more people on transit than any of the other alternatives, while protecting agriculture and open space in South Jersey -- hence the “green” solution. At close to $1B less than any of the other alternatives studied, this alternative can be implemented along with additional improvements for less than the more costly alternatives, allowing us to address more of our needs and build more of our web.
- Second, advance an Alternatives Analysis Study to bring Bus Rapid Transit along Routes 42 and 55 to Camden and Philadelphia. This solution will address congestion and provide yet another option for the traveling public. Express Buses will provide frequent service via exclusive bus lanes during peak commuting periods with direct service to Camden and Center City Philadelphia. This investment not only will help to relieve congestion but will make efficient use of existing highway infrastructure with minimal impact to the environment and a modest impact in capital cost. At the same time these bus corridors will act to build on the economy of the region by providing increased mobility, commuter alternatives and an opportunity for Transit Oriented Development at the Bus Rapid Transit stations. It also provides a flexible approach to address an ever-changing demographic.
- Third, this regional plan will examine the benefits and requirements to upgrade another severely underutilized transportation asset - the Atlantic City Rail Line. The Atlantic City Line is a tremendous asset connecting Philadelphia's 30th Street Station with Atlantic City, but misses the opportunity to connect to a South Jersey jewel, the Atlantic City Airport. However, due to a lack of adequate connections, a lack of double track and infrequent service, the system cannot realize its potential and cannot fully provide the benefits to the region. We will examine opportunities to improve this system including the development of a Transfer Station at the PATCO Woodcrest Station allowing for more convenient transfers between PATCO, New Jersey Transit and convenient access from I-295. We will also identify track improvements to facilitate more frequent, reliable service and a better connection to the Atlantic City Airport Terminal. The Atlantic City Airport has untapped capacity to relieve traffic at some of the regions larger airports, and properly planned, we’ll help grow the region’s economy in leaps and bounds.
These three transportation initiatives are efficient, cost effective and resolve many transportation, community, environmental and economic development goals for our region. They are smart investments that enhance underutilized transportation resources to better serve the citizens of South Jersey and beyond. They are affordable investments that have short time frames for implementation to provide quick wins for the region. They will create thousands of direct and indirect construction and transit related jobs and many, many long term jobs and career opportunities as a result of bringing transit to our region. They will open new job opportunities for transit dependent residents of our region. They will spur development and re-development in our communities. They will encourage Transit Oriented Development around transit centers, and they will encourage people to reduce the number of single occupant vehicle trips throughout our region. And last but not least, they will protect our environment and the assets that make South Jersey what it is.
We will begin to immediately conduct another round of public meetings in June to discuss these investments and the plans to move forward. It is essential that the public continues to be involved every step of the way. We look forward to the public’s input to help refine these options to better serve all of South Jersey and the greater Delaware Valley region’s needs.
More than a decade ago, South Jersey missed an opportunity to build one component of what we are proposing when light rail between Camden and Glassboro was proposed by New Jersey Transit. We have a rare opportunity before us. We have another chance to build that line and to do more. We have support in Trenton, we have a commitment for funding in the Transportation Trust Fund, we have the support of our Board and we have heard from residents of South Jersey that they want and support expanded mass transportation.
DRPA and PATCO have initiated the study that has led to the recommendations presented here today and have advocated for these improvements; but we have found willing partners in our elected officials, our community representatives our planning agencies our transit partners and in Trenton. I am personally proud of what all of us working together have accomplished, where we are today and what our actions here today will mean for South Jersey for many years to come. There can be no finer example of a region coming together to address its transportation, environmental, and economic issues and developing a solution that will make a difference.