This morning Governor Phil Murphy announced that the state will provide funding for the purchase of an abandoned rail bed that will create a transformational nine-mile-long public greenway from Jersey City to Montclair.
Advocates had warned that unless the state provided funding by January 2022, the current owner, Norfolk Southern Railway, could sell the property piecemeal, and the opportunity to create the long-talked-about Essex-Hudson Greenway for cyclists, walkers, and runners would be lost.
Speaking from the Bloomfield Public Library where a coterie of dignitaries and activists had gathered for the announcement, the governor said, “When we look back 30 or 40 years from now, this is a top-five accomplishment. This is a big deal that folks will benefit from for a long, long time . . . this is our High Line moment.”
The governor predicted that “for those who live and work along the greenway, you’ll have an entirely new reason to ditch your car and leave the traffic.”
The greenway will follow the one-hundred foot right-of-way of the eastern portion of the former New York and Greenwood Lake Railway beginning in Montclair and running through Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, and Secaucus before terminating in Jersey City.
Passenger service on this portion of the line ended in 2002 when New Jersey Transit diverted Boonton Line trains bound for Hoboken and Penn Station, New York, to its Morris and Essex Line in Montclair. Norfolk Southern continued to provide freight service on that line until 2015.
In 2020, the national Surface Transportation Board permitted Norfolk Southern to abandon the former freight line and convey its right-of-way to the Open Space Institute after OSI had successfully negotiated a “time-limited” agreement in January 2020 to purchase the right-of-way for $65 million. In January 2021, the parties agreed to a one-year extension of the agreement.
The Open Space Institute is a conservation organization that, since its founding 40 years ago, has protected over 2 million acres of land on the east coast from development. It was joined in the greenway effort by New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and the 9/11 National Memorial Trail alliance.