Union County Freeholder Bruce H. Bergen has been appointed as the Chairman of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition (RVRC), a rail transit advocacy group representing towns and counties along the NJ TRANSIT Raritan Valley line.
“I congratulate Chairman Bergen, and I look forward to working hard with him on the Coalition,” Kowalski said. “With the welcome change of leadership and direction in the Governor’s Office, we look forward to making progress on both our long-term and short-term goals in improving rail service.”
Union County Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados congratulated Bergen on his appointment and added the Freeholder Board would work to strongly support his goals on the RVRC.
“Union County as a whole is a regional transit hub, and long-term improvements to its rail system are crucial to the economic well-being of our residents,” Granados said. “My colleagues and I look forward to working with Freeholder Bergen, who is leading the RVRC, and Freeholder Vice Chairman Kowalski in their efforts to lobby for crucially needed changes to the system.”
As a major part of his objectives, Bergen noted he would emphasize supporting Governor Phil Murphy’s goals of improving rail service and increasing funding, not just for the Raritan Valley Line, but for the crucially important Gateway Project, and other vital efforts at NJ Transit.
Bergen expressed the RVRC’s support for the Gateway Project, which includes the construction of an additional two-track tunnel to New York, adding that the existing network is on “life support,” and in dire need of repair and expansion. Construction of new tunnels under the Hudson River could provide sufficient capacity under the Hudson River to give the Raritan Valley Rail line a full schedule of one seat rides to New York Penn Station.
“The importance of the Gateway project to the travelling public and the regional economy cannot be understated. While there are recent news reports of a setback in funding from the Trump administration, this is a project of utmost consequence and one that the RVRC has been vociferously advocating for. While some suggest shrinking the scope of the Gateway project is a solution to the funding problem, reality calls for full completion of the work.”
Bergen added he would also support a current NJ State legislative bill which includes $5 million in state funds for capacity improvements to the Raritan Valley Line.
To further improve the Raritan Valley Line, the RVRC supports a rail “flyover” that would alleviate switching problems between the Raritan Valley Line and Amtrak, which today causes train delays. It also supports the triple tracking of a section of the rail line and it urges further work on a same-platform transfer at Newark Penn Station.
The RVRC was created in 1998 to advocate for a one-seat ride on the Raritan Valley Line. At the time, Raritan Valley riders had to switch trains at Newark because diesel engines were not allowed into the tunnels under the Hudson River.
In 2014, NJ Transit began using dual-mode locomotives that could switch from diesel to electric power, making it possible to have a direct ride into New York City. The first midday, off-peak weekday one-seat rides into New York started in March 2014, and evening service started in January 2015. However, rush-hour commuters still have to change trains in Newark.
The Raritan Valley Line is a commuter rail service operated by NJ Transit which serves passengers in municipalities in Union, Somerset, Middlesex and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. Union County stops include: Union, Roselle Park, Cranford, Garwood, Westfield, Fanwood, Netherwood and Plainfield. From Union County, the trains travel westward to High Bridge with eleven additional stops.
The RVRC website is www.raritanvalleyrail.com