By Michael Hill
It’s been years in the planning, decades for some — New Jersey Transit’s North Brunswick Station along the longest stretch of the rail line without a station and on the old Johnson and Johnson site. The goal was to ease Route 1 traffic congestion and the commute to and from Newark and New York.
“It’s all dug up, but it might not happen in my lifetime. I really don’t see it happening,” said Karen Brady Eckman, a Middlesex County resident.
On its website, the development here writes, “A proposed new train station is the catalyst for the North Brunswick Transit Village.” Housing has been built. Big box stores have opened. And last month so did the Greene Turtle — all in anticipation of the train station.
“We’re curious if it will come. We’re not too concerned about whether or not it’s going to come or not. We’re going to be here anyway and we’re having a ton of business come in and anything added would be great,” said Christina Pinizzotto, marketing manager at the Greene Turtle.
In 2013, the governor said he was proud to authorize construction of New Jersey Transit’s rail station in North Brunswick and told folks here it was an “investment in you, your town and your neighbors.”
But, over the years, New Jersey Transit and others say the project became less of a priority because of other more pressing needs and the project was not in the agency’s capital plan.
In a statement, NJ Transit says, “It is important to understand that capital plans adapt to current situations and to meet priority safety, state of good repair and operational needs. … We have advanced the design of the proposed station, which allows NJ Transit to have a more refined cost estimate, identify property and other needs, and an understanding of scope.”
Today, transportation advocate Martin Robins did not like what he heard from NJ Transit’s executive director.
“He said five to seven years before it really made the capital plan. So, it’s quite a ways off. … It sounded like the executive director of New Jersey Transit was saying today that the project turned out to be much more complicated than New Jersey Transit had first assumed,” Robins said.
North Brunswick’s mayor says yes the project is long overdue, but he remains patient.
“I would be OK if in five years they’ve begun laying the ground and they are actually building us a train station. We have to take the long view,” said Mayor Francis Womack.
Robins says he’s concerned about NJ Transit’s reputation and what it has to say now about the North Brunswick station is troubling.
“I’m afraid that New Jersey Transit’s reputation with the development community and municipalities and promoting transit oriented development, is going to suffer from this example,” he said.
For commuters here, it’s one thing to impatiently look down the rail line for a train. It’s a completely different frustration to wait for the train station to come.