Prieto: $16B Transportation Trust Fund deal includes light rail expansion

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Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) says that the $16 billion, eight-year Transportation Trust Fund plan that was announced hours ago includes details to expand the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to North Bergen and southern Bergen County. Vincent Prieto

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Bringing light rail service into Bergen County has been an important priority for local leaders for many years and I am proud to say that the transportation funding deal we have reached will finally make it a reality,” Prieto said in a statement this evening.

“This expansion of public transit will have a tremendous economic impact on Northern New Jersey, opening up opportunities for businesses to thrive and communities to grow as commuters are given greater options.”

Back in late October of 2015, Prieto was among many local, state and federal officials from North Jersey who joined the North Jersey Rail Coalition: whose ultimate goal is to have the light rail fully connect Hudson, Bergen and Passaic Counties.

A proposal from 2007 came up with a preliminary figure of about $150 million to fund the ambitious project.

“Hudson and Bergen counties are two of our state’s most important economic engines and expanding the light rail system will make them even more dynamic,” Prieto added. “This is an exciting day for the region and I’m very proud to have secured this needed funding.”

With the area still recovering from the NJ Transit train crash at Hoboken Terminal on Wednesday, Prieto also emphasized the public safety benefits of the transportation funding deal.

“Transportation funding is not just an economic and quality of life issue, but it’s also a public safety issue,” he said.

“We do not yet know the cause of the Hoboken train crash, but we know that increased transportation funds will allow our public transit systems to be modernized and expanded, which will both serve commuters better and keep them safe.”

The proposed light rail expansion would add seven new stations to the existing system: 91st Street in North Bergen, Route 4 in Englewood, the Englewood Town Center, the Englewood Hospital and yet to be determined locations in Ridgefield, Palisades Park and Leonia.

Initial studies have found that it would add over 20,000 new daily riders, according to Prieto’s office.

The TTF deal will raise the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon, perhaps as early as next week, and will slightly reduce the sales tax from 7 percent to 6.625 percent over the next two years.

Gov. Chris Christie (R) and State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) also signed off on the agreement.