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New Jersey Pols Court the Feds With Light Rail Dance

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez recently took Federal Transit Administration officials on a tour of New Jersey Transit’s 21-mile Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line. (Photo by Iensovet)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Jersey Pols Push HBLR Extensions
New Jersey Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line (HBLR) is actually something of a misnomer: Although it was planned to connect Hudson and Bergen counties, it terminates in North Bergen, well short of the Bergen County line. A 10-mile extension from its current northern terminus to Englewood would bring the line to Bergen County.

On top of that, Jersey City officials, pleased with the development the line has sparked along its Hudson waterfront, would like to see similar redevelopment along its western waterfront on the Hackensack River, something they say would happen with a mere quarter-mile extension of the current line.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) took Federal Transit Administration and North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority officials on a tour of the 21-mile HBLR route September 2nd with an eye on making both extensions a reality.

A news story on the tour on NJ.com quoted Menendez as saying, “Today was about priming the pump for when New Jersey submits an application” for federal New Starts funding.

The Hudson Reporter’s story said that Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise told FTA Regional Administrator Marilyn Shazor, who lives in Secaucus, that the Jersey City extension could double property values along the city’s Hackensack riverfront and open “a whole new Gold Coast” for development.

The site Jersey City officials hope to redevelop is a 96-acre Superfund site along the Hackensack, where a developer has proposed building a mixed-use project with up to 9,600 units of housing. Jersey City is currently negotiating to obtain partial funding for an HBLR station on the site. The quarter-mile extension would take the line from its current end at West Side Avenue across State Route 440 to the site. Environmental work on the $213.9 million extension is already complete.

The FTA makes $2 billion in New Starts funding available each year. Any federal grant would have to be matched by state and local funds, which also means that New Jersey would need to reauthorize its own Transportation Trust Fund, which currently needs replenishment as well.

Menendez told NJ.com that the Jersey City extension would be easier to build than the Bergen County one. DeGise, however, said that even the Bergen County extension could be pursued by cutting it into smaller pieces: “Take small bites to eat the elephant.”

Work Begins on Greater Jakarta LRT System
Indonesian President Joko Widodo formally broke ground September 9th on a new light-rail transit system designed to better connect the capital, Jakarta, with its satellite cities.

The Jakarta Globe reports that the President was joined at the ceremony by Kiswodarmawan, president director of state construction firm Adhi Karya, which was selected as the project’s contractor one week earlier.

Jakarta residents celebrate a Car Free Day. (Photo by Gunawan Kartapranata)

“Indonesia’s infrastructure sector is still behind, especially the infrastructure development for mass transportation,” the President told the audience. “We must expedite this, and now is the time.”

The initial system will have two routes. One will extend 24 km (15 miles) from Cibubur to Cawang and Dukuh Atas; the other, an 18-km-long line (11.25 miles), will connect Dukuh Atas and Cawang with East Bekasi. Work on the first line began with yesterday’s groundbreaking. Work is to get underway on the second line in the fourth quarter of 2016. Both lines are scheduled to open in time for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

The system will be equipped with six train sets capable of carrying 24,000 passengers per hour and will run at an average speed of 60 to 80 km/h (37.5 to 50 mph).

When complete, the system will have three additional routes connecting Palmerah, Senayan and Bogor with Cawang and Dukuh Atas. The lines will follow toll roads and highways that connect the districts. Kiswodarmawan described the system as “eco-friendly and built to operate above the roads and highways” at the groundbreaking.

Ontario Puts Finch West LRT Project Up for Bids
While much of the sound and fury over rail transit extensions in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton region has focused on the replacement for the Scarborough RT light rapid transit line, the Province of Ontario and Metrolinx, the transportation planning agency for the region, are quietly proceeding with a light-rail transit extension on Toronto’s west side.

A news release from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation announced that Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx have issued a request for qualifications to private entities interested in designing, financing, building and maintaining the Finch West Light Rail Transit line.

The 18-station line would begin at an underground interchange with the planned Finch West station on the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Spadina subway line extension and proceed west along Finch Avenue for 11 km (6.875 miles) to a terminus at Humber College. The project includes a storage and maintenance facility for the line’s vehicles.

“The project will help transform Finch Avenue West into a vibrant community, accessible to motorists, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians. The LRT will provide service that is faster, more frequent and reliable than the existing bus service by traveling in dedicated lanes with signal priority at intersections,” the release stated.

The line will be built under the province’s Alternative Financing and Procurement model, which transfers the risk associated with financing, construction and maintenance of the line to the private sector. The TTC will operate the line under the terms of its existing master agreement with Metrolinx.

The Finch West line is part of a 10-year, C$31.5 billion ($23.8 billion U.S.) program to make priority infrastructure improvements throughout the province. C$16 billion ($12.1 billion U.S.) of that total is dedicated to priority transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

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