Backers: MOM line doesn't hinge on Hudson rail tunnel

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 09/10/06

Transit advocates contend that the proposed Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex rail line could be built right now without waiting for a second Hudson River tunnel to be constructed and provide service to New York.

The key is building the line along the Monmouth Junction alternative and connecting with the Amtrak's Northeast Corridor tracks near South Brunswick. The next step is building a station on the corridor and coordinating train service, so New York-bound passengers could transfer to express corridor trains, said Ralph Braskett, Committee for Better Transit New Jersey Coordinator.

The new station on the Northeast Corridor would have six tracks: two tracks in the center for Amtrak trains to pass through, two tracks for corridor trains and outer tracks for MOM trains, Braskett said. The station could be located in South or North Brunswick, he said.

After that, the only thing that's needed is coordinating schedules of MOM trains and express Northeast Corridor trains, which already exist, he said. Trenton to New York corridor trains would make an extra stop at the new station, he said. That would allow MOM passengers to change to New York trains across the platform and riders who wanted to make local corridor stops, could board MOM trains, he said.

"The key stations are New Brunswick, Metropark and Newark," he said. "New Brunswick is a natural destination. It's an employment base, and Rutgers and the hospitals are there."

Metropark is a large employment center, and MOM service would get traffic off Route 9, Braskett said. It also could provide service to Newark Liberty Airport.

"There are spill-over benefits that affect everyone in North and Central Jersey, and we ought to be building it now," he said.

A recent study, done on behalf of Monmouth and Ocean counties, showed a maximum of 21,000 daily riders traveling round trip could use MOM trains running on a route to the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick, with an improved travel time of 110 minutes from Ocean County through the proposed Hudson River rail tunnel to New York.

"I think the boardings will be close to 21,000 real riders. You might lose 1,000 to 2,000, (without a direct ride to New York)," Braskett said. "The charm of MOM, with the Monmouth Junction route, is it takes people to other places (than New York) that are difficult to drive to. It's serving a different market."

The New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers also contends that a MOM line isn't dependent on the second rail tunnel, said Douglas Bowen, president.

"New York access for MOM is the icing on the cake, but it's not the core reason for its being," Bowen said. "It would be boosted by Manhattan access, but it's not necessary."

However, Bowen stressed, the only way to make MOM work is by using the Monmouth Junction route.  "We're encouraged that MOM is back in real-time consideration," he said. "MOM lives."

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