South Orange Village President Sheena Collum joined Phil Murphy, Democratic nominee for governor, and other mayors from towns along the Morris & Essex train line for a press conference on Thursday, July 13, calling for renewed investment in rail infrastructure.
The press conference took place at Newark Broad Street Station. Collum and Murphy were joined by Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark and Mayor Tim Dougherty of Morristown.
Collum stressed how rail infrastructure is crucial to the current and continued economic success of South Orange — which boasts the busiest rail station on the Morris & Essex line and is the10th busiest in New Jersey.
She warned that while the current “Summer of Hell” — eight weeks of train diversions while tracks are being repaired in New York Penn Station — is an “inconvenience. it’s merely a drop in the bucket compared to long-term lack of investment in rail infrastructure.”
Collum called for renewed investment in the Gateway Project – formerly the ARC project — which would bring a new tunnel and increased capacity to train travel under the Hudson River. The South Orange Village President said that the $20 billion price tag is “certainly worth it,” as an enormous portion of the regional economy is dependent upon the connection.
Collum rattled off a number of benefits of the Gateway Project — reduced travel time, reduced travel cost, safety, travel reliability, reduced highway congestion, job creation, increased municipal and state tax revenues, and the inducement of development around train stations, among other benefits.
As the Executive Director of the NJ Chapter of the American Planning Association, Collum talked about how “towns with rail transit are accountable for most growth because baby boomer and millennials want walkability. Our communities will not continue to grow … unless there is transit capacity.” She noted that South Orange is currently at 110% capacity .
Listen to Collum’s full remarks below. She takes the microphone at the 20:32 mark (the recording counts down backwards).