The renewal of the transportation trust fund is vital to the continued efforts of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (RVRC) advocating for expansion of one seat ride service, which currently only happens mid day and after 8 pm on weekdays. The renewal of the transportation trust fund will provide for the necessary funding so NJ TRANSIT can have the capital to maintain and expand their facilities, including expansion of the ‘one seat’ ride into the “shoulder” schedule and weekends, which is the next step that RVRC is requesting.
In addition, the renewal of the TTF will have an immediate impact on several key capital projects that will the improve on-time performance and reliability of the Raritan Valley line service.
The Hunter Flyover Project. At Hunter Interlocking, the Raritan Valley Line joins the Northeast Corridor Line (NEC) just west of Newark Penn Station. Currently, peak-hour Raritan Valley Line trains headed east to Newark must cross three to four NEC main line tracks at grade to access the eastbound tracks at Newark Penn Station to make the connection for trains traveling to New York Penn Station.
With forty Newark-bound trains per day, Raritan Valley Line trains create conflicts on one of the busiest stretches of the entire NEC. During the morning rush, Raritan Valley Line trains are often delayed as they wait for a “slot” to make the complex crossing, while Amtrak trains must occasionally wait for the trains to complete the crossing.
To solve these issues, Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT intend to construct the Hunter Flyover, which would carry Newark-bound Raritan Valley Line trains up and over the six-track NEC main line. This new flyover would remove many directional conflicts between trains and dramatically reduce delays for NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak. The project cost is about $250 million dollars and the project is waiting to complete preliminary engineering and environmental analysis. The construction of the Hunter Flyover will greatly improve the on time performance of trains in the a.m. allowing riders to make their connections by arriving on time and not late due to being held until the train can cross safely from track five to track one in Newark Penn Station.
Adding third track to the Lehigh Line. Currently there are only two tracks between Cranford and Union. These two tracks are shared by Raritan Valley Line passenger service and freight service provided by two class-1 freight carriers. The results in daily time limits or windows during which NJ TRANSIT can operate passenger service while during other times freight rail service utilizes the two tracks to move freight cars. By adding a third track, this will allow increased two way service for the Raritan Valley line passenger service and a dedicated trackage for freight service. This will result in improved, on-time performance for both passenger and freight rail service since they will be not have to share track capacity and will improve safety by not mixing passenger and freight rail service operating on the same tracks.
This project is favored by the major class 1 freight carriers as a way to improve their efficiency and to increase profit because more freight can be moved with no time restrictions. NJ TRANSIT also is very favorable towards the project because it improves on time performance for many train lines that operate on the Newark Division that stop at Newark Penn Station.
We encourage everyone along the line to contact their legislators and Governor to vote in favor and to sign into law a renewed transportation trust fund.