(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) testified before the Senate Transportation Committee on Monday in support of the Northern Branch Corridor project, which he said will provide mass transit options for underserved Bergen County commuters, help the environment by reducing traffic congestion and support economic development through the region.
The project would extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Englewood. The light rail extension would add stops in North Bergen, Fairview, Ridgefield, Palisades Park, Leonia and Englewood.
Below is the full text of Johnson’s testimony:
“Chairman Sacco and Transportation Committee members, it is great to be here before you today to speak about this very important topic.
“Thank you for calling this meeting and focusing attention on the Northern Branch Corridor Project.
“The Northern Branch is an extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line into Bergen County. It would extend from the current Tonnelle Avenue Station and run to its proposed terminus, Englewood Hospital.
“It is time for the Hudson Bergen Light Rail to live up to its name. The current light rail line does not have any stations or track in the County of Bergen.
“The Northern Branch has been studied for a very long time, and each study comes back with the same result- that the line should be built.
“The project was part of the original Hudson Bergen Light Rail plan and we are still waiting, over 10 years later.
“The benefits of the project cannot be understated. It will provide mass transit options for underserved Bergen County commuters, enabling them to get to ferries and PATH trains and other destinations in Hudson County. As well, it allows New Yorkers and Hudson County Residents easy access to the County of Bergen.
“We have reached a decision point on the future of mass transportation in Bergen. The current rail service has reached maximum capacity with tunnels that are over 100 years old. The ARC tunnel, which would have provided a one seat ride to New York City for Bergen County Commuters, was cancelled, as we all know. People are now trying to pin their hopes on the extension of the 7 subway line, or the Gateway Project.
“Most of the people in my District get to New York by bus or car. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is in shambles to put it lightly. It is decrepit, old and needs to be expanded. There are lines for overfilled buses snaking through its halls. Because there are not enough parking spots, NJ Transit buses must come back to NJ to park, and then go to the Terminal to pick passengers for the return commute.
“Being subjected to local traffic and weather conditions, the buses are less efficient and frequently delayed. Some private bus carriers bypass the terminal entirely, discharging passengers at random points throughout Manhattan. There is a reason I have heard many commuters say, “When it rains, take the train”
“It is time for us to get cars and buses off the roads and people onto the rails. The Northern Branch Corridor would reduce traffic congestion, a sore subject in the most densely populated state in the nation.
“The light rail line will support economic development throughout our region. It makes Bergen County more accessible and attractive to businesses looking to grow.
“Business projects that are created near the newly constructed light rail stations are eligible for a bonus under the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013; another plus for this project.
“The light rail line will work both ways, helping Hudson County residents and New Yorkers reach Bergen County region. We have much to offer, from vibrant downtown areas to the Bergen Performing Arts Center.
“We have been working to ensure everyone is ‘on board’ with the project. Officials at the Federal, State, County, and Local levels, some of which you will hear from today, are all supportive of the project. With a project this important, all levels of government must work together to make it a reality.
“I have worked with folks on both sides of the aisle, who realize that the line will serve both Democrats and Republicans. This is a bi-partisan effort that has been extensively studied by transportation experts for many years. The City of Englewood has included this in its master plan.
“The line will create jobs and improve our economy while protecting our environment by taking cars off the road. It is a great project by anyone’s measure. As a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, I will fight for funding to make this important project happen.
“Again, thank you for holding a hearing on this important topic. I urge you to support the Northern Branch Corridor. It is about time we put the “Bergen” into the Hudson Bergen Light Rail.”