NEWARK, NJ (AP) A new section of the Newark subway opening this summer is the most significant upgrade for the city since service opened in the 1930s.
The 1-mi. loop will link Newark Penn Station and its sister Broad Street Station with five new stops in downtown Newark, including one at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
City officials said the $207.7-million project, paid for with federal and state dollars and operated by NJ Transit, will help Newark spur its long-awaited downtown renaissance.
“It makes Newark just so much more of an attractive spot to business,” said Richard Monteilh, the city’s business administrator. “You can get in and out without getting involved with traffic.”
The train will start below ground at Newark Penn Station and will drop off passengers at aboveground platforms next to a new riverfront minor league baseball stadium and the Newark Museum along Broad Street. Passengers will ride same light rail cars used on the subway’s main line.
The loop will help commuters and tourists avoid a short walk, but its main purpose is to connect six major heavy rail lines between the two stations.
Riders from western suburbs around Montclair, Berkeley Heights and the Mall at Short Hills will have easier access to Penn Station in Manhattan and Newark Liberty International Airport. The closest rail connection between most of the lines now is farther east, at Secaucus Junction.
Customers will be able to transfer from the heavy rail lines to the Newark subway and buses, said Joyce Gallagher, assistant general manager for light rail operations for NJ Transit.
“It presents a whole lot of travel options,” she said recently while walking along the tracks near Route 21, which was moved several hundred feet to make way for the new tracks.
The last major expansion of the 4.3-mi. subway in 2002 brought the service out of Newark and into the neighboring cities of Belleville and Bloomfield.
On an average weekday, the Newark City Subway provides approximately 18,000 daily passenger trips. NJ Transit projects approximately 4,000 people to use the new line during weekdays.
It will give commuters like Aaron McClain more choices and shorter walks.
He takes NJ Transit from New York City to his job as a consultant for Prudential in Newark, hopping on the subway at Newark Penn Station for two stops.
McClain said the new extension would give him an option of taking another train line from New York to the Broad Street station. He could use the new extension and avoid a 10-minute walk to work.
“In cold weather, it’s a pretty long walk,” he said.
The service would provide train connections to the arts center or the baseball stadium, areas the city has been pushing as tourist destinations.
“This will allow people who come here from the suburbs to have a new option,” said Lawrence P. Goldman, the art center’s president and chief executive officer. “They can take a street car from Penn Station or Broad Street station and be here in a zip.”
City officials hope that convenience also will bring more residential development in downtown Newark.
This spring, developers plan to tear down a four-story, brick warehouse across from the Broad Street Station for 500 to 1,000 condos, said Danny Gale, president of Gale Urban Solutions, a partner in the project. While construction would not start for several years, Gale said the subway connection makes the area more desirable for developers.
Monteilh said the new line also will add some character and charm to Newark.
“It’ll be very satisfactory to see surface train cars running on the streets again,” he said. “It’s a throwback to the early turn of the century when Newark was one of the greatest cities in the country.”
The Newark City Subway opened in 1935, and the line was extended to Newark Penn Station when it opened in 1937.
The Art Deco style of the era is still present in four underground stations, where 16 tile murals depict scenes along the Morris Canal. The canal’s bed became the subway tunnel, whose construction was funded by the federal Works Progress Administration.
The federal government is paying for 80 percent of the new subway extension, matched by 20 percent of state money from the Transportation Trust Fund.
The Federal Transit Administration approved the subway extension in 1998, and construction began in 2003 and includes a new 850-ft. tunnel from Penn Station.