What would you change at Newark Penn? NJ Transit wants to know
TRENTON – NJ Transit wants your suggestions about what it should include as it sets out to modernize Newark Penn Station.
Newark Penn Station is the 7th busiest rail station in the United States – over 94,000 passengers a day before the pandemic, plus local, regional and Greyhound bus riders. Modernization work on the station is now in motion, a tricky thing given its addition to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
NJ Transit describes the work as a “holistic overhaul,” including improvements of four platforms, the completion of a roof replacement, HVAC upgrades, a better public address system, overhauled elevators and escalators and new boards showing passengers their wait times.
Kim Haas, president of Haas Media, encouraged commuters who see "street ambassadors" near the station over the next few weeks to take their survey about what they’d want to see there.
“Is there a new restaurant? Some people mentioned a bar,” Haas said. “I can’t mention all the kinds of things that people have come up, but this is really your chance to share your thoughts and opinions.”
A public hearing was held last week, and there will be another this fall and one next spring. Comments can be submitted through NJTRANSIT.com/NewarkPenn or by email to NewarkPenn@NJTransit.com.
The state provided $191 million toward the Newark Penn Station work as part of its new 2023 budget, directing surplus funds to the project to avoid the costs associated with borrowing for it.
That won’t cover the total cost of the work, which NJ Transit estimates in its 10-year capital program to have been $480 million in 2020, including $26 million in improvements to Platform D.
The project’s first phase of three will take through fall of 2023. Eugenia Taylor, manager of the state of good repair program for NJ Transit, said the overall construction isn’t expected to be done until 2030, approaching the centennial of the station, which was dedicated in 1935.
“Things could change but right now, looking ahead, this is a long-term project with as I mentioned various phases and various milestones that will happen between now and then,” Taylor said.
Improvements that will roll out along the way included improved platforms, as well short-term upgrades such as banners in front of the building, improved lighting, painting, outdoor furniture, perhaps even food trucks.
“These are all our hopes and our thoughts that we would like to see some of these ideas implemented at the station, just to kind of give it a new life to it,” Taylor said.
At the first hearing to solicit input, not every question from the public was about the construction plans. Some wanted to know what is being done about the homeless, the displaced and the drug users at the station.
Deputy Chief Andrew Crowe said NJ Transit Police are crisis-intervention trained and partner with private service providers.
“They’re out there every day trying to get people, make contact with them at our facility and direct them to services that can get them pointed in the right direction,” Crowe said. “It’s a slow process, I know, but it’s one that continues 24/7.”
Crowe said the state has committed resources to the effort and that the city has gotten more engaged. He said it’s a daunting daily task to figure out what services people need.
“This project has brought more focus onto the problem,” he said. “We appreciate that because with more focus, these issues do get more attention and we get more assistance.”
Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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