The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) is seriously considering allowing the construction of over 4,000 commuter parking spaces at the Secaucus Junction train station. Discussions about the possible parking spots at the station, located at the southern end of Secaucus, commenced at the Oct. 24 NJMC meeting.
The Secaucus Junction train station opened in December 2003 and was built with $600 million in federal funds. The station was intended as a transfer station for riders from nearby Bergen and Passaic counties, as well as Orange and Rockland counties in New York. The train lines servicing rides from these areas, including the Main Line, the Bergen County Line, and the Pascack Valley Line, have all historically ended in Hoboken.
New Jersey Transit initially did not include parking as part of the station’s plans, partially due to fears that local riders would cease riding the trains and drive their cars to Secaucus, which is only one stop away from New York Penn Station.
While the Secaucus Junction station does provide a needed link that unites all of the New Jersey Transit lines, the station has been underutilized. The construction of commuter parking would be attempt to address this problem, as well as provide an additional purpose for the adjoining $250 million New Jersey Turnpike Exit 15X. Currently, Exit 15X sees about 7,500 vehicles a day, which is less than any other interchange. It was designed to handle 25,000 vehicles a day.
Secaucus resident Sam Maffei spoke out against the proposal by Intermodal Properties of Secaucus to build a 4,280-space garage that would also serve 94 New Jersey Transit buses at Secaucus Junction.
“Originally the Secaucus Junction train station was built as a simply a transfer station,” he said at the hearing. “They said there would be less traffic and congestion on our streets. Here in Secaucus we are inundated with traffic and gridlock. Try to get in and out of Secaucus during business hours. It’s virtually impossible.”
Maffei also raised the name of another project proposal that many town residents fear will add to the considerable local traffic burden.
“We also have to contend with Xanadu,” he said. “This entertainment and retail center to be built in the Meadowlands is also going to have a serious impact. There is presently no mass transit to the Xanadu site area to alleviate the already congested traffic on Route 3. This is a serious situation, never mind what will happen when the Transit Village project is completed. We don’t want Secaucus to become a giant parking lot.”
Damien Newton, the New Jersey coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Committee, an advocacy group for transportation reform, added his concerns about the parking garage plan, as well as advocating his organization’s desire that any space used for parking should instead be set aside for a freight-rail facility.
“The number of trucks on North Jersey roads will dramatically increase in the coming years,” he said. “For this reason, we oppose any zoning changes that would slow the growth of the rail-freight industry in North Jersey. While increasing the bus infrastructure is a noble goal, there are too many things that we don’t know about the after effects of this potential move. We would be adding cars on to the New Jersey Turnpike and the local road network, and that’s a concern that we have.”
NJMC spokesman Christopher Gale said that the commission would carefully study any parking proposal before going forward.
“A report and recommendation will be prepared for the commissioners after sometime after Dec. 1, which is the closing date for public comment,” he said. “This will also go before the Hackensack Meadowlands municipal committee. The earliest a petition would come before the board to make the zoning changes for a parking garage would probably be February or March of 2007.”