31 Bridges, 2 Cities, 6 Towns: Greenway Is New Jersey’s High Line

NEWARK – For years, the project has been more than a beloved dream of environmentalists and safe street advocates: a 9-mile hiking and biking trail is built. along a defunct New Jersey railroad that cuts through one of the country’s most densely populated areas.

A park in the spirit of New York City High currentThe road would connect the state’s two largest cities, Newark and Jersey City, and travel west to affluent suburbs, crossing two rivers, six more towns, and 31 bridges along the way.

This effort split the administration of two governors, known by at least two names – Stone & Iron and Essex Hudson Greenway – and nearly failed more than once.

But last month, after a year-long negotiation, New Jersey completed the $65 million purchase of an 8.6-mile stretch of the old Boonton Line from the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The row from Montclair, through Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny and Secaucus, ending in Jersey City.

Official government official announced the land transfer on August 16 on Thursday.

“It is no longer a question of ifs,” said Brendan Gill, an Essex County commissioner who has been promoting the green path for more than a decade. “Now it’s a question of timing.”

Planners have set lofty goals: expanding carbon-neutral travel options; build 130 acres of new parkland in an area that lacks open space; provide the necessary stormwater drainage to reduce flooding; and boost the economies of towns along the way.

But their most ambitious goals may involve building bridges rather than trails.

Once completed, the green route will create a barrier-free pedestrian corridor connecting cities with suburbs in a situation where many communities and schools are segregated by race and income. import.

Kim Elliman, CEO of Open Space Institutea land conservation organization that was instrumental in negotiating terms of sale, “and re-establishing a sense of community.”

Mr. Gill, who lives in Montclair, says that’s the main reason he remains one of the project’s most active supporters.

The path, he said, will allow people to “come into contact with a world that may be different from their own, be able to meet someone different from them, and understand that they are part of something bigger and bigger than just being.” a single community of individuals living in.”

Significant barriers remain. Consultants who will be hired by the State Department of Environmental Protection will begin work on drafting a design that appeals to the diverse communities the park will traverse. The state will also have to find a way to pay for and maintain the park.

The work will be done in phases, Governor Philip D. Murphy said Thursday, and likely won’t be completed until the end of his second term in 2025.

“Think about 10 years from now, kids in one of these communities just roaming safely, in an eco-friendly, confident way, from community to community, going bike or walk,” said Mr. Murphy, a Democrat. “It will transform.”

Portions of the property are narrow and are moved directly into private homes. Other sections run under or over the road. In some places, the land is as wide as the length of a football field.

“It’s important to make sure this really meets the needs of the community,” said Debra Kagan, executive director of the New Jersey Hiking and Biking Coalition, with the 9/11 National Memorial Trail, spent years building momentum and support for the green line.

“Where should the access points be? How do we make it so that community members feel welcome? “That’s what keeps a project like this alive,” said Ms. Kagan.

Not all towns along the route were equally enthusiastic.

The mayor of Kearny, Alberto G. Santos, said questions he had about how the route would be controlled and who would fund any needed emergency response, remained unanswered. word.

“It looks pretty good. I hope it happens, just not based on the support of Kearny taxpayers,” said Santos, who was invited to Thursday’s press conference but chose not to attend.

In Kearny, the railway crosses two bridges – both in need of significant repairs – and runs through a tidal swamp along a narrow riverbank, which Mr. Santos said ambulances and police cars did not can be easily passed.

“Imagine a dark, lightless railway in the middle of a swamp,” he said. “And if it’s a high tide, the water will reach the level of the track.”

State Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, a Democrat representing Newark, noted that security and cleanliness along the length of the abandoned railroad have long been an issue.

Investing in real estate and reducing its destruction will make the route safer and cut down on hazardous waste, she said.

“When this park becomes a gem, it will be a wonderful place,” she added, “it will be a special place for our children to learn the importance of protecting environment and environmental justice.”

Trail built on and near abandoned railway lines that have become increasingly popular urban attractions. Have BeltLine in Atlanta, Underlined in Miami and 606 in Chicago.

In New Jersey, trains do not run on the line, first chartered as the Montclair Railroad Company in 1867, since 2002. The corridor was also used by Western Union and other telephone companies. used to bring service to northern New Jersey, Connor Spielmaker said. Norfolk Southern spokesman.

One possibility to generate revenue for park maintenance could be to lease out part of the land to telecommunications companies in the hope of laying underground fiber optic cables, according to the planners of the Open Space Institute. Planner of the Open Space Institute, who helped appraise the site prior to sale.

“We have to change the way we are doing,” Ms. Kagan said. “And one of the ways to do that is to get serious about building safe, accessible, dynamic transportation infrastructure.”

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