Defenders of the Essex-Hudson Greenway, a proposed walking and cycling trail that would stretch from Montclair to Jersey City, say New Jersey rulers are allowing a once-in-a-lifetime escape opportunity.
The Essex-Hudson Greenway project, in a statement released last month, said: “The dream of creating a nine-mile, 135-acre linear park in northern New Jersey comes to an end as project funding and buying opportunities are about to expire. ”
The problem is primarily at the state level, where inaction puts funding at risk and puts “the whole project at risk,” said Debra Kagan, executive director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition.
The purchase contract, negotiated in March 2020 by conservation nonprofit Open Space Institute, is calling on local, regional, state and federal sources to purchase the platform along New Jersey Transit’s former Boonton Line from Norfolk Southern Rail Corp. The deadline for the purchase to be completed is January 2022.
As late as this spring, officials said the sale was “close to being erased.”
Economic benefits of rail-trail
In the statement, Kagan said it was “inexplicable” that the state, with its “vast availability of capital funds”, let slip the possibility of creating a railway track with such environmental, economic, equity benefits. and public health.
There has already been an extension of the deal, leaving just six months to complete the complicated land transfer. If the January deadline is missed, the railway company may start selling pieces of the line, damning the project, and there are already offers on the table, advocates say.
Currently, they say, the abandoned line is unsightly and dangerous, a situation that will worsen as more pieces are cut.
On his “Ask the Governor” show on WNYC on June 30, Murphy responded to a question about the Green Lane saying he “likes the idea” and is “open-minded.”
“There are different challenges associated with it,” the governor said, adding that he “would follow our politicians to determine what we think we need to do to cross the starting line if we choose.”
New Jersey Transit:FTA grants NJT $ 5.15 million to buy electric buses
On Wednesday, her press secretary Alyana Alfaro Post emailed a comment: “In partnership with counties and local governments, we are exploring various options to fund the project and are working as quickly as possible to see if there is a way. to follow viable. . “
The trail would be connected to trains to New York
The railroad would run from Montclair near Bay Street Station to Jersey City near Grove Street PATH station, which takes commuters to Manhattan, with light rail connections. The route could eventually connect cyclists to the East Coast Greenway and the National 9/11 Memorial Trail.
Branching between the towns of Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus and Jersey City, the trail is believed to be owned and operated by the counties of Essex and Hudson. At public forums in these cities this year, leaders and advocates for safe streets embraced the green lane and its potential to promote passive recreation, protect open spaces and boost economic development in hard-hit city centers. pandemic.
At a Montclair town hall in March, Kagan said the linear park will bring equity to disadvantaged areas in the form of greenery, exercise opportunities, better transportation and commuting.
Eat, hike, explore and discover:Here’s your ultimate North Jersey summer bucket list.
At 100 meters wide, the greenway has enough room for benches and art exhibits, like on New York’s High Line, she said. Planting rain gardens and organic ditches along the route, as well as adding stormwater storage space below the trail, would provide flood protection, especially needed in communities like Kearny and Secaucus.
Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill, a Montclair resident who has championed the Green Lane for more than a decade, said structuring funding was the biggest hurdle. The plan called for Essex and Hudson counties to take out loans from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank, to be repaid with proceeds from the Realty Transfer Fund. Although this arrangement has been used in the past for land protection under the Highlands Act, the law expires this month and the legislation to fund the greenway in this way “never took off”, he said. Gill said.
How to get involved
According to the greenway press release, if the state does not act on the I-Bank loan by early July, the funds will be reallocated to other projects.
Another hurdle is concerns about how underwriting the loans could affect the ratings of Essex County and Hudson County bonds.
“There are a lot of moving parts in this process,” said Gill. With such a complicated deal involving so many government entities and nonprofits, leadership from the governor’s office is essential, he said.
Nonetheless, he remains “cautiously optimistic” that everyone “will put some capital into the project and help us reach the full number by the end of the year,” he said.
There may also be bailout law funds and money under the federal infrastructure bill, he said.
“The governor has declared that he definitely supports the project,” he said. “I plan to do everything I can to make sure he doesn’t die on the vine. It would be a terrible thing to let go.”
Residents who wish to signal their support for the project can contact Governor Murphy by phone, letter or social media. For contact information and a digital support letter, visit essexhudsongreenway.org/.
Julia Martin covers Montclair for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
E-mail: [email protected]