Today Governor Phil Murphy announced the acquisition of a nine-mile, 135-acre, former rail line which will be converted into a new state park and greenway connecting eight Essex and Hudson County communities.
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 deal to purchase the right-of-way for $65 million.
“Said Governor Murphy, “While connecting these communities to our natural environment and economic opportunity, the Greenway will also bolster resilience in one of the state’s most densely populated regions.”
The sequence of the development and opening of the Greenway, as well as the design for amenities, transportation options, and connections to local community resources, will be informed by a strategic master plan for the Greenway. The Department of Environmental Protection is currently procuring a consultant to support the development of the master plan and is leading an interagency working group and engagement with local elected officials, community members, and other stakeholders.
“OSI is proud to have played a role in bringing this transformative project to today’s announcement and looks forward to building on our public-private partnership and fulfilling the promise to create a word-class linear park that will greatly enhance local communities and be enjoyed for generations to come” said OSI President and CEO Kim Elliman.
The fiscal year 2023 budget agreement includes $20 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to begin the remedial and structural work necessary to transform the abandoned rail line into a usable transportation corridor and recreational space. The entire line will remain closed to the public for an initial period of 6-12 months, after which the line will be opened to the public segment by segment as work on individual sections is completed over the next several years.
Said Rahid Cornejo, Managing Director of the Bergen Arches Preservation Coalition, “The acquisition of the Old Boonton line for the Essex Hudson Greenway has been a long time coming. This is a great stride forward and we are happy to see state support for infrastructure reuse projects in New Jersey. We hope continued support for connecting the Essex Hudson Greenway to the Bergen Arches and Sixth Street Embankment, ultimately creating a regional greenway network that stretches from Montclair to the Hudson River Waterfront.”
The addition of the greenway “will greatly improve one of the most treacherous stretches of our Maine-to-Florida route” added East Coast Greenway Alliance Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano.
Updated at 4:39 pm on 9.15.22