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Update to the Northern Branch Corridor Project

After considering comments on the DEIS, FTA and NJ TRANSIT have developed a new alignment that would extend light rail service from North Bergen to Englewood Hospital. Light rail service would not extend past Englewood. This new alignment will be the subject of a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).

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What is Northern Branch? - History - Project Planning

What is Northern Branch?

The Northern Branch is a freight rail line owned by CSX Transportation that runs through Hudson and Bergen Counties to the New York State Border. The Northern Branch Corridor, through which the rail line traverses, is a densely settled suburban environment that has not been served by passenger rail since the discontinuation of service on the Northern Branch and West Shore Lines in the 1950s and 60s.

A disproportionately low 17 percent of total Bergen County commuters use rail service, as compared to 60 percent in Union County and nearly 50 percent in Morris, Middlesex and Essex counties. The Northern Branch Corridor Project is proposed to address the transportation needs of southeastern Bergen County through the re-introduction of rail transit service on the Northern Branch line. This rail line would offer a new transit option to these residents.

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History

The arrival of passenger service on the Erie Railroad (later Erie-Lackawanna) Northern Branch Line in the 19th century spurred a period of rapid growth along the corridor. The Northern Branch communities were quickly transformed into moderately dense bedroom communities as residents utilized the railroad to reach jobs in Jersey City, Newark, and New York City. The railroad also encouraged the growth of significant industrial and manufacturing sectors, primarily in southern Bergen County and northern Hudson County.

Like many other railroads across the country, a combination of national, regional, economic, political and transportation factors led to the deterioration of both passenger and freight rail services in the Northern Branch Corridor during the second half of the 20th century. These changes led to the discontinuation of passenger rail service in the Northern Branch Corridor in the 1960s and a dramatic reduction in freight rail service.

As the Northern Branch Corridor enters the 21st century, its bedroom community character endures. The area continues to grow as communities redevelop. Former industrial areas are rapidly changing into commercial and residential uses. However, unlike earlier periods of growth during which the railroads provided a reliable travel option, residents now depend almost entirely on the roadway system for mobility within the Corridor.

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Project Planning

The growth of automobile usage and accompanying roadway congestion in recent decades led planners and officials to search for solutions to the growing traffic problems in the Bergen County area. In the mid-1990s the West Shore Region Study provided a comprehensive examination of multi-modal opportunities throughout Bergen County, New Jersey and Rockland County, New York. Recommended for further study was an extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) from 85th Street in North Bergen along the Northern Branch to Tenafly, New Jersey

The Northern Branch Corridor DEIS was prepared by NJ TRANSIT in cooperation with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to evaluate the benefits, costs and social, economic and environmental impacts of constructing and operating passenger rail service on the Northern Branch. The DEIS evaluated two Build Alternatives: the Preferred Alternative, which extended existing Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) service from North Bergen to the Tenafly-Cresskill border, and a similar HBLR extension that terminated at Route 4 in Englewood.

The DEIS was published in November 2011, and can be reviewed here: Northern Branch DEIS.

Public hearings were held in January 2012, and the public comment period closed on February 21, 2012. More than 1,200 comments were received and reviewed by NJ TRANSIT. While many comments expressed support for the service, residents and community leaders in Tenafly were strongly opposed to the extension of service into their community. After considering the comments, FTA and NJ TRANSIT have developed a new alignment that would extend HBLR service from North Bergen to Englewood Hospital, which is north of Route 4 and south of Tenafly. Light rail service would not extend past Englewood.

This new alignment results in changes to the service plan and potential environmental and social impacts explored in the DEIS circulated for comment in 2012. As a result, this new alignment and associated changes will be analyzed in a Supplemental DEIS (SDEIS) and recirculated for public comment and agency feedback in a process closely approximating the one undertaken for the DEIS.

Presently, the SDEIS is in development. When complete, notice of SDEIS availability for public review will be posted in the Federal Register and on this website.

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