Lawmakers Renew Their Quest for a Bergen Light Rail

By Michael Hill

Charlie Moots of Leonia has heard it before, talk of expanding light rail from Hudson into Bergen, “I guess it got caught in politics somewhere along the line.”

Leonia is one of 9 Bergen County towns that would get a light rail stop as lawmakers renew their quest to light rail on the tracks in Bergen and connect it to Hudson County.

“And we know we have to make changes,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg, Senate Majority Leader.

Lawmakers and transportation advocates say 20,000 a day would ride the Bergen light rail, property values would increase by 20 percent in a short time, businesses would boom and highways such as Route 4 would have less traffic.

The price tag, about a billion dollars.

“We will not support any transportation master plan that does not have the initial funding that we need in order to access federal money for the Bergen Hudson Light Rail,” Weinberg continued.

Does that mean other cities that want money to expand light rail in their towns should stand in line?

“I am not suggesting that any of the other projects are not wonderful projects. We’ve waited too long. We are all committed to it. You’ve got the budget people here. You’ve got the leadership here. This is going to happen,” Weinberg answered.

“I’m not saying these projects won’t get done. They probably all will. They will pay dividends. Over the years, you know, They’ll pay for themselves,” remarked Senator Sweeney.

The problem that has plagued the plan since the beginning is money. Where’s the money going to come from to expand the Bergen Hudson line?

Some of the money to expand Bergen Hudson light rail would come from the Transportation Trust Fund. Some lawmakers advocate raising the gasoline tax when a recent poll shows that’s not what the public wants:

“Again, asking do you want your taxes to go up? A simple no. Do you want to improve your commute, the answer would be yes,” Sweeney continued.

Englewood Hospital has its engineers working with state engineers to design a stop and a public parking lot for commuters given that Englewood would be the last stop for the expanded line.

Warren Geller, President and CEO Englewood Hospital said “this issue is imperative to Bergen County. We want people to want to live here, to want to work here and in order to do that you need safe, convenient, commuting.

For Charlie Moots the solution is as simple as the problem in expanding light rail in Bergen, “money is always the problem, get the money and get it done.”