Hudson-Bergen project is on track
In April, New Jersey Transit opened the first segment of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, a system that eventually will span 20.5 miles between Bayonne and Ridgefield. The agency expects to open another segment this month, placing it one step closer to its goal of completing the line in 2010.
NJ Transit provides bus, rail and light rail service to 352,000 daily commuters throughout the state. It operates the third largest transit system in the country with 161 rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.
The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail began to take shape in 1996, when NJ Transit hired Washington, D.C.-based Washington Infrastructure Partners to design, build, operate and maintain (DBOM) the new system. The line eventually will link 30 stations in eight communities, providing commuters with convenient access to businesses, health care facilities, retail and recreational destinations, and transit connections.
The first segment of the system, a 7.5-mile, 12-station stretch between Bayonne and Jersey City, serves 2,650 riders each day. (Ridership numbers reflect one-way travel.) The segment completed this month will link Jersey City to the Newport Center mall. When the line reaches Hoboken in spring 2002, daily ridership is expected to jump to 10,000.
For the Bayonne-Jersey City line, NJ Transit purchased 20 low-floor, light rail vehicles from Kinki Sharyo, based in Wellesley Hills, Mass. Each unit is 90 feet long and features four double doors on each side, 68 seats, two wheelchair stations, and room for 122 standing patrons. The initial investment was $3.1 million, and additional vehicles will be purchased as the system expands.
As construction on the Hudson-Bergen project has proceeded, the DBOM contract has proven beneficial. “The contract allowed us to shave seven years off the construction schedule and an estimated $300 million off construction costs,” says Jeffrey Warsh, executive director for NJ Transit. Because the contracting company will operate and maintain the system for 15 years, Warsh says “it is in their best interest to build a quality system with low O&M costs.”
In addition to making substantial investments in construction and technology, NJ Transit is investing in artwork to enhance the aesthetics of the Hudson-Bergen system. That portion of the project is funded by the Transit Arts Program (TAP), which was launched in 1994, when NJ Transit allocated $2.5 million for “community-based” artwork in its transit stations.
For the Hudson-Bergen stations, a Transit Arts Committee was formed to develop system-wide guidelines for station art. It included representatives of NJ Transit; the New Jersey Council on Arts, Trenton, N.J.; Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, the New York-based firm that served as the owner’s representative for the light rail system; and Wallace Roberts & Todd, the Philadelphia-based architecture firm that served as a subconsultant on the project. For the first 12 stations, TAP has purchased more than 50 works of art from 30 artists.
Working in a variety of media – including tile, enamel, glass and metal – artists have left their unique marks on elements such as seating, platforms, plazas, windscreens, kiosks, canopies and signage. From a bronze bust of Martin Luther King Jr. to images from nature, commerce and street life etched in glass and expressed in murals, the artwork reflects each community’s distinct values and identity.
“The Transit Arts Program gives the local community a sense of ownership of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, with local themes playing a prominent role in different forms of artwork,” says Jeffrey Warsh, executive director for NJ Transit. “It has helped us achieve community participation and acceptance, and it provides a higher quality of commute for our riders.”
For the Bayonne-Jersey City segment, an open competition elicited approximately 100 proposals from artists. An invitational competition was used to develop proposals for some sites, and a small number of works were acquired through direct commissions.
When it is complete, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail will serve 40,000 customers each day. Already, it is sparking redevelopment and revitalization along the Hudson River waterfront. According to NJ Transit, more than a dozen commercial or retail properties, 4,000 residential/rental units, four hotels and a new medical center are planned, under construction or completed along the line.