Northern New Jersey/Newark Rail Link

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Newark Rail Link (MOS-1)

Northern New Jersey

(November 1999)

(Newark Rail Link Map)


The New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) is proposing a one mile, five station Minimum Operable Segment (MOS) of an 8.8-mile, 16 station light rail transit (LRT) system which will eventually link Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey. The MOS will function as an extension of the existing 4.3 mile Newark City Subway light rail line, running from Broad Street Station in Newark to Newark Penn Station. NJ Transit estimates that the one mile MOS will cost $207.7 million (escalated dollars), including associated stations, and will serve 13,300 average weekday boardings in 2015. NJ Transit estimates that the entire 8.8-mile project will have a capital cost of $694.0 million (1995 dollars) and will carry 24,900 average weekday boardings per day in 2015.

Newark Rail Link Summary Description

Proposed Project Light Rail Transit
(Minimum Operable Segment)
1 mile, 5 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $207.7 million
Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE) $141.9 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1996) $2.3 million
Ridership Forecast (2015) 13,300 average weekday boardings
6,400 daily new riders
FY 2001 Financial Rating: Medium-High
FY 2001 Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Highly Recommended

The overall project rating of Highly Recommended is based on the project’s strong cost-effectiveness and transit supportive land use, and the strength of the project’s capital and operating plans. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As New Starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link is being advanced in three stages: the MOS, a one mile connection between the Broad Street Station and Newark Penn Station; the second segment, a one mile line from Newark Penn Station to Camp Street in downtown Newark; and the third segment, a seven mile LRT line from downtown Newark to Elizabeth, including a station serving Newark International Airport. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) covering all three stages of the full build alternative was completed in January 1997. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which addressed only the MOS, was completed in October 1998. The Federal Transit Administration signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for the MOS in November 1998. Negotiations between FTA and NJTransit on a Full Funding Grant Agreement for the NERL MOS-1 are underway. Environmental work on the other segments of the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link awaits completion of ongoing planning efforts.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(57) authorized the New Jersey Urban Core Project, which consists of eight separate elements, including the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link, for final design and construction. TEA-21 continued Section 3031(b) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) which stated:

[F]or the purpose of calculating non-Federal contributions to the net cost of the New Jersey Urban Core Project, the Secretary [of Transportation] shall include all non-Federal contributions made on or after January 1, 1987 for construction of any element of the project. Non-Federal funds committed to one element of the project may be used to meet the non-Federal share requirement for any other element of the project.

Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $29.68 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for the New Jersey Urban Core Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link Project.


Under Section 3031(c) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link, as part of the New Jersey Urban Core Project, was exempted from the New Starts criteria. This exemption has been continued under TEA-21. Although exempted, NJ Transit provided selective data on the MOS for the FY 2000 and FY 2001editions of the Annual Report on New Starts. Data in the criteria tables below reflect consolidated New Starts project justification information that NJ Transit submitted for the FY 2000 and 2001 reports. No information was submitted on a TSM alternative. N/A indicates that information is not available for specific criteria at this time.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in final design.


The Medium-High project justification criteria reflects the project’s strong cost effectiveness and transit supportive land use.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low-Medium

NJ Transit estimates that in the year 2015, 13,300 average weekday boardings, including 6,400 daily new riders, will use the proposed Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link (NERL) MOS-1 project. NJ Transit estimates the following annual travel time savings for MOS-1:

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.3 million hours N/A

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 3,645 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed five stations. This represents approximately 33 percent of the total households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Northern New Jersey is a "severe" nonattainment area for ozone and a "moderate" nonattainment area for carbon monoxide. NJ Transit estimates that in 2015, implementation of the initial MOS would result in the following emission reductions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 101 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 7 annual tons N/A
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 24 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 2,740 annual tons N/A

NJ Transit estimates that implementation of the initial MOS would result in the following annual savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 22,090 million annual BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

NJ Transit projects a slight decrease in systemwide operating cost per passenger mile for the MOS compared to the No-Build alternative.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2015) $0.47 N/A $0.46

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

NJ Transit projects the following cost effectiveness index for NERL MOS-1:

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $8.80 N/A

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High land use rating reflects the high densities and transit-supportive environment of Newark’s central business district (CBD) – located along the proposed alignment – that have contributed to the area’s high transit mode share. The rating also acknowledges both the City and State’s role – via corridor policies and incentives – to promote a transit-supportive environment.

Existing Conditions: The initial Minimum Operable Segment of the proposed light rail line will pass through the Newark CBD. Adjacent land uses are primarily commercial, institutional (universities) and civic/cultural (churches, performing arts center, parkland, etc). Major employers are concentrated around Penn Station and scattered throughout the rest of the corridor. Total employment in the Newark CBD was 63,800 in 1990 (37 percent of total Newark employment). Transit work-trip mode share for the Newark CBD was 36 percent in 1990. Existing high trip generators include office complexes, a major intermodal rail and bus hub; Rutgers University and Seton Hall Law School; and the NJ Performing Arts Center. The NJ State Development and Redevelopment Plan (SDRP) establishes State- level planning policy. The plan divides the state into planning areas and central places and creates density and land use controls to promote concentration of new development in towns and urban centers. However, the SDRP is not enforceable. Instead, it relies on municipal compliance and cooperation. In 1998, state legislation was introduced to (1) reduce financial assistance to municipalities that do not adopt SDRP policies; and (2) prevent planned development in one municipality from affecting neighboring municipalities. This action indicates "building pressures to limit urban sprawl" in New Jersey. Tax abatements are also available to promote urban redevelopment.

Future Plans and Policies: A master plan for the Penn Station area in downtown Newark was completed in 1998. The plan includes Design Guidelines that are supportive of transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly development. The plan contains enforceable design guidelines that regulate the land use and physical form of development in the area. Guidelines supportive of transit-oriented, pedestrian –friendly development include: (1) permission of mixed uses; (2) mandated or encouraged ground floor uses including retail and community facilities; (3) streetwall regulations to establish a uniform street edge; and (4) restriction of curb cuts. An open space network is also proposed, including pedestrian corridors and plazas, as are improvements to pedestrian circulation and the streetscape environment. As part of MOS-1, conceptual plans that include pedestrian amenities have been developed for the proposed Broad Street and Washington Park Stations.

The Centre Street station is being designed to integrate with adjacent development and to allow air rights construction above the station. A number of capital improvements are either planned or underway to increase the pedestrian-friendliness of new development. These include two projects to aid pedestrian access and flow in the vicinity of Penn Station and redevelopment of the Passaic River waterfront, including a park with pedestrian connections to adjacent areas. A new concourse at Penn Station is scheduled to open in late 1999. New public parking is not permitted under the Penn Station Master Plan. New downtown parking in support of commercial construction is limited to one space per 1,000 square feet of office space, and is limited to structures.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 32%

The financial strategy for the initial Minimum Operable Segment of the proposed Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link includes $141.9 million (68 percent of total project costs) in Section 5309 New Starts funding, $25.3 million (12 percent) in FTA Section 5307 Urbanized Area formula funds, $39.8 million (19 percent) in NJ Transportation Trust Fund revenues, and $0.7 (1 percent) in Port Authority of New York & New Jersey funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects the sound financial condition of NJ Transit and the agency’s strong dedicated revenue source (NJ Transportation Trust Fund - TTF). These funds are allocated by the state on an annual basis and are provided via fuel taxes.

Agency Capital Financing Condition: NJ Transit is in good financial condition. Currently, the State provides the agency with $300 million annually in capital funding, via the TTF; the State Commissioner of Transportation has approved an increase in TTF annual allocations to $410 million beginning in 2001. Federal sources are projected to account for less than 50 percent of the agency’s FY 2000-FY 2004 capital program. Historically, these projections are consistent with the agency’s reliance on Federal funding sources in prior years.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Capital cost estimates for the project have increased by 38 percent over the last year. These changes are the result of cost escalation due to project development delays and more precise final design estimates. The current cost estimate is considered reasonable given the project’s size and alignment.

Existing and Committed Funding: At this time, all non-New Starts funding is committed to the project. The use of Section 5307 funds as a "soft match" is based on a provision of ISTEA

(Section 1044 of Title 23 and continued under TEA-21) that allows states to count toll revenues collected and used on roadway facilities as a component of non-Federal matching funds.

New and Proposed Sources: No new sources are proposed for the NERL MOS-1 project.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects NJ Transit’s healthy operating condition. Revenues to operate MOS-1 of the proposed NERL project are considered strong.

Agency Operating Condition: The operating condition of NJ Transit is considered strong. The agency is required by State law to maintain a balanced budget. In FY 1999, the agency’s operations generated a surplus of $20.7 million in revenues from fares, State Operating Assistance and other sources.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operating costs for MOS-1 are estimated at $2.3 million ($1996). Operating cost estimates are considered reasonable. The 20-year cash flow analysis provided by NJ Transit incorporates rates of growth in farebox revenues (3.5 percent per year) that slightly exceed current trends. This assumption reflects historically high rates of ridership growth. Excluding farebox revenues, combined revenues from the two other principal sources of operating funds – State Operating Assistance and Reimbursements – are projected to rise at just over three percent per year, slightly less than the rate of increase since 1990. However, the cash flow assumptions do not identify specific service requirements nor functional components of operating costs (e.g., introduction of new service, maintenance requirements).

Existing and Committed Funding: All of the proposed sources of operating funds are existing and are considered stable and committed. Operations of NERL MOS-1 are anticipated to require less than $0.2 million in operating subsidies per year.

New and Proposed Sources: No new funding sources are proposed.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $141.9 $29.68 million appropriated through FY 2000.
Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Funds $25.3


New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund $39.8


Port Authority of NY & NJ $0.7


Total: $207.7

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link Map of a one mile, five station Minimum Operable Segment (MOS) of an 8.8-mile, 16 station light rail transit (LRT) system which will eventually link Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey. The MOS will function as an extension of the existing 4.3 mile Newark City Subway light rail line, running from Broad Street Station in Newark to Newark Penn Station.