NEW RAIL LINK WOULD TIE IN AT RED BANK; BOROUGH OFFICIALS VOW TO DERAIL PLAN

RB RR signThe Red Bank station would be the northern terminus of a new commuter line from Lakehurst, linking central Ocean County to the North Jersey Coast Line.

Over the vehement objections of Red Bank officials, proponents of a new commuter rail line  that would link Lakehurst with points north yesterday designated the borough railroad station as a terminus.

Creation of the line would add some 40 grade crossings a day in Red Bank, creating havoc for automotive traffic, said Councilman Mike DuPont.

The so-called Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex, or MOM line, would also worsen the economic divide between the west and east sides of town at a time when the local government and business interests are working to erase it, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

DuPont and Menna vowed to fight the plan, which was advanced yesterday as part of three-county "compromise" that removed the possibility of the line actually being built into Middlesex County, one of three routes under consideration.

"It's going to be the seminal issue for this area," Menna said at Tuesday's bimonthly council session. "It's just not going to happen."


MOM line

Known as the "Red Bank alternative," the idea of a  terminus here has been roundly and repeatedly rejected by the governing body, Menna said.

The council has passed resolutions over the last few years expressing oppostion to the routing. 

Until yesterday, it appeared that Monmouth County officials agreed that the best route for the line ran into lower Middlesex County, tying into the Northeast Corridor rail line at South Brunswick. They argued the route would benefit western Monmouth, which has experienced explosive growth over the past two decades.

But that idea, opposed by Middlesex County officials, was recently rejected as too expensive to attract sufficient federal funding.

"It's cheaper to come into Red Bank, but Red Bank would bear the brunt of traffic and congestion," DuPont said. He called the prospect of additional holdups at grade crossings "a real nightmare."

From the Asbury Park Press coverage today:

The compromise was hammered out in a May 21 meeting between county, NJ
Transit and other transportation officials and consultants. NJ Transit
officials said it planned to address vehicular traffic issues in Red
Bank, which the group recommended at the meeting.

In March, NJ
Transit officials said the "preferred" Monmouth Junction route was too
expensive to qualify for federal funding under new cost efficiency
standards and proposed four options, including single-track Monmouth
Junction and Red Bank routes, a spur to Freehold to the Red Bank Line,
and what is called bus rapid transit lanes.

At the May
21 meeting, Monmouth County Freeholder John D'Amico Jr. recommend that
the counties support the Red Bank alternative, a Freehold Township spur
line, and Route 9 bus rapid transit, officials said.

The
agreement by the working group, announced by NJ Transit Wednesday, ends
years of fighting between the two counties over the final route. But a
new fight may be brewing with Red Bank.

"It's not just going to
happen to us," said Menna. "Additional (rail) traffic will go through
Middletown, Hazlet, Matawan and Shrewsbury. It's their quality of life
being affected."

Lacey said that the group at the May 21
meeting acknowledged that there would be efforts to mitigate the
effects of additional trains in Red Bank.

"There certainly is
an issue with Red Bank, they're very concerned about traffic and
parking," [Ocean County Freeholder James F. ] Lacey said. "I think NJ Transit can work with them to solve
their problems."

New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers
officials joined Red Bank in opposing the route as the inferior of the
three routes proposed.

"That's not a compromise. Middlesex wins
on this round. The route's efficiency and effectiveness is
compromised," said Douglas Bowen, president of the association which
backed the Monmouth Junction option "We're aware of the Red Bank
opposition and NJ-ARP shares many, but not all of their doubts and
concerns."

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