The Port Authority Board of Commissioners last week authorized $12 million for the planning and preliminary design of the EWR Station Access Project, which is expected to increase public transit access to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and New York City for the underserved communities in Newark and Elizabeth, including a one-seat ride to New York Penn Station’s Moynihan Train Hall and on Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT’s (NJT) direct Northeast Corridor services.
The authorization is for planning and preliminary design work for a new multimodal facility at the AirTrain Newark Rail Link Station serving EWR. The project will leverage existing transportation assets, including Amtrak, NJT and AirTrain Newark rail service, in a cost-effective way to improve access, mobility and regional connectivity for the neighboring airport communities of Newark and Elizabeth.
“Access to public transportation is vital to expanding economic opportunities,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “For decades, the communities of the South Ward of Newark and the northern part of Elizabeth have lacked affordable transit options, particularly to Newark Liberty and New York City. This project is an example of government at its best by figuring out a way to deliver a project faster and for less money while also putting thousands of well-paying jobs within reach. Newark Liberty itself serves as a powerful economic engine for the region, with about 19,250 people directly employed at the airport.”
“The Board of Commissioners’ diligence in meticulous planning and design is entirely in keeping with the way Newark has been moving forward for years. We appreciate the importance of collecting hard data and harnessing knowledge to maximize a positive impact on our quality of life,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “This project benefits all passengers going in and out of Newark Liberty Airport, but I especially commend Port Authority and its partners for their dedication to the residents of our South and East wards who will enjoy access to fast, affordable, state-of-the-art commuter rail transportation. Contributing to a more robust economy and job market in Newark, this project is as much an economic imperative as it is a moral imperative – and we are grateful for the Board’s commitment to equity and equality.”
“We are excited by the proposed $12 million in Port Authority funding to initiate design work on the community access project to the Northeast Corridor station at the airport,” said William O’Dea, executive director of the Elizabeth Development Company. “Linking working class neighborhoods to easy access to New York City and several other urban areas in New Jersey is critical to advancing economic and employment opportunities for these residents. We are also hopeful that the project itself will create opportunities for local MWBEs and result in community givebacks.”
The scope of authorized work includes the development of project concepts and progress of design for selected alternatives, National Environmental Policy Act review, as well as cost estimating and construction scheduling services to develop and refine project cost and schedule baselines. Plans also include support for extensive external stakeholder outreach with an emphasis on seeking input from the surrounding community, the analysis of project delivery approaches and legal services to support due diligence and right of entry for property acquisition.
Comparatively, it can take Newark and Elizabeth residents about 40 minutes to reach EWR via bus, whereas the trip from Amtrak and NJT’s co-located Newark International Airport station on their Northeast Corridor (NEC) lines to AirTrain Newark takes only about 9 minutes, or rail trips to Newark Penn Station on existing trains from the NEC station link reliably take about 7 minutes. The project will also improve connections to PATH train service from Newark Penn Station for access to job centers in Jersey City and Manhattan, while spurring transit-oriented development around the NEC station serving the airport consistent with local community-driven planning efforts.
EWR access has been a vocal request of community members for many years, most recently expressed during the agency’s EWR Vision Plan community outreach sessions. The plan serves as a framework for future development through 2065 and makes recommendations for both short- and long-term projects while emphasizing EWR as a world-class gateway for New Jersey. Under the plan, EWR will provide long-term economic growth, incorporate sustainability projects in every element of the development plan, and provide multimodal access, such as this project, to the airport for both work and travel.
The EWR Station Access Project was engineered to deliver many of the community benefits of a PATH rail extension to the AirTrain Newark Rail Link station faster and at a significantly reduced cost. The PATH rail extension, as originally outlined in the agency’s 2017-2026 Capital Plan, relies on more than $700 million in anticipated grants that have yet to be secured. The EWR Station Access Project is preliminarily estimated to cost $125 million (subject to change based on the results of the planning work authorized today). With the EWR Station Access project capable of delivering the PATH rail extension’s ambitions for local community access to New York City and Newark Liberty, and the current funding shortfall for the project, the PATH rail extension is being deferred to a future capital plan.
While the planning, environmental review, design, public outreach and participation processes continue, the Port Authority will seek federal grant funding and value-capture opportunities for the EWR Station Access Project. As part of the project financial plan, the agency has applied for $45 million in construction grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant Program.
For details on the EWR Station Access Project, please click here.
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