Northern New Jersey (Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link)

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Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link

Northern New Jersey

(November 1996)

Description The New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) is proposing an

8.8-mile, 15-station light rail transit line linking Newark, Elizabeth, and Newark International Airport. The capital cost of the project is estimated to be $694 million (1995 dollars). NJ Transit predicts that the line will carry 24,900 riders per day in 2015.

A one-mile "initial operating segment" (IOS) from Broad Street Station to Newark Penn Station is estimated to cost $141 million (1995 dollars), including associated stations and vehicles. The IOS is predicted to carry 13,200 riders per day in 2015.

Status Section 3031 of ISTEA directed FTA to negotiate and enter into a full funding grant agreement (FFGA) providing no less than $634.4 million for those elements of the New Jersey Urban Core Project which can be fully funded in FY 1992 through FY 1997. The Newark-Elizabeth project is one of eight elements eligible for funding. Through FY 1997, Congress has appropriated $523.08 million for Urban Core Projects.

The Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link is being advanced in three operable segments: the first operable segment is a 1 mile connection between the Broad Street Station and Newark - Penn Station; the second operable segment is a 1 mile line from Newark - Penn Station to Camp Street in downtown Newark; and, the third segment is a 7 mile LRT line from downtown Newark to Elizabeth. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is scheduled for completion in December 1996.

Justification Under Section 3031(c) of ISTEA, the Urban Core Project is exempt from the New Start criteria.

Mobility Improvements: The project would improve access to the airport, transfers between commuter rail lines, access to existing and new development sites, and internal circulation in downtown Newark. Preliminary estimates indicate that the project would save over 1,300 hours of travel time daily. The initial operating segment is projected to save 800 hours daily.

Cost Effectiveness. The cost-effectiveness index for the IOS is $5 per new rider (1995 dollars, 2015 ridership). For the full project, the index is $17 per new rider (1995 dollars, 2015 ridership).
Environmental Benefits. Northern New Jersey is a "severe" nonattainment area for ozone and a "moderate" nonattainment area for carbon monoxide. The impact of the proposed project on regional air quality has not yet been determined.

Operating Efficiencies. FTA does not have information on how the project would affect NJ Transit's operating cost per passenger.

Local
Financial
Commitment
An initial financial plan was developed as part of the DEIS. The plan involves a combination of FTA and state funds, with the exact mix to be determined in the course of preliminary engineering. As provided in Section 3031(b) of ISTEA, NJ Transit may use locally funded projects such as the Kearny and Waterfront Connections, and New Jersey Turnpike projects as local match for the Newark Elizabeth Rail Link and other Urban Core projects.

The capital financing plan is rated "low" due to the lack of a specific financing plan at the time of this report. NJ Transit's Five Year Capital Plan (1997-2001) anticipates $79.54 million funding for the project during the program period. The exact mix of Federal and state funds is to be determined as the financing plan is finalized. The Five Year Capital Plan anticipates combined federal and state funding of $727 million, or $145 million per year on average, for other projects. The fourth and fifth years of the Plan have been overprogrammed by 30 percent, meaning that some of the programmed projects may not be fundable.

The stability and reliability of operating funds are rated "low-medium" due to the lack of a specific financing plan at this time. The projected $5.3 million operating deficit for the full build of the project represents less than 1 percent of the current NJ Transit operating budget. However, the financing plan does not indicate how this increased deficit, in addition to other systemwide increases in operating expenses, will be funded. In response to increasing deficits, NJ Transit has undertaken a cost cutting program, utilizing innovative strategies such as cross-border leasing, that have led to an operating surplus. Transit service levels are being maintained. In 1994 the average vehicle age of NJ Transit's bus fleet was 9.8 years, which is slightly higher than the national average. The average age of the rail fleet is 15.8 years.

Proposed

Source of Funds

Total Funding

($million)

Federal:
Section 5309 New Start NA ($11.95 million appropriated

through FY 1997)

Section 5307 Formula NA
Flexible Funds NA
State: NA
Local: NA
TOTAL $694.0
NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. The table includes Not Available (NA) for proposed source of funds since the exact mix of Federal and state funds is to be determined as the financial plan is finalized.

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