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NJT won't reopen lower Boonton line

(The Associated Press circulated the following article by Steve Strunsky on April 19.)

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Transit has decided not to reactivate commuter rail service on a branch of the Montclair Line, after canceling the service in September 2002, when a rail link was completed to allow Midtown Direct service into Manhattan.

NJ Transit Executive Director George Warrington said reopening the lower Boonton line, which served 800 riders a day, would be too expensive, requiring $26 million in immediate track, signal, bridge and other repair work, plus another $46 million in capital spending over 10 years. And, Warrington said, the line would cost $3 million a year to operate, while taking in just $108,000 in fares.

Nonetheless, Warrington said he would appoint a panel to look into improving bus service in the area of Glen Ridge, Bloomfield and Kearny, where service was closed at three stations along the 11-mile lower Boonton line, which ran from Hoboken to Glen Ridge.

The New York & Greenwood Lake Railroad, a small freight carrier that operates on a separate line, joined with inconvenienced commuters in a lawsuit that forced NJ Transit to hold a public hearing on the station closings in February.

Despite support for the reopening expressed at the hearing, however, Warrington issued his decision on Friday with a statement that, "the economics just don't work."

New York & Greenwood Lake's owner, Jim Wilson, who as a youth shined shoes at Bloomfield's Rowe Street Station, said Monday that he will now submit a plan to the state Department of Transportation seeking permission to operate his own, independent passenger line on the lower Boonton branch.

Wilson, who leases Rowe Street's tiny 1888 Victorian station - complete with wood burning stove - from NJ Transit as office space for his freight line, said he could operate the lower Boonton line for much less than Warrington's projections, though he declined to be specific.

Ideally, Wilson said, he and Warrington would cooperate to make the line work.

"If he doesn't want to run it, then work with us," Wilson said.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

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