Controversial Newark airport rail plan released to public

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NEWARK, N.J. – A controversial $1.7 billion plan to extend PATH rail service to Newark Liberty International Airport has been presented for public review.

Tuesday's public meeting, the first of two scheduled for Newark residents, kicked off a period of environmental review and permitting that is anticipated to last 18 months. It will be several more years after that before the expansion opens for service.

NJ Transit already offers commuter rail service to the airport on its Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line routes.

The project, spearheaded by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has drawn criticism from parties within the agency, USA Today’s reports.

Some members within the Port Authority have stated that the agency’s funds would be better spent on other transportation projects, such as a new bus terminal in midtown Manhattan or additional rail tunnels under the Hudson River.

This is not the first time that rail expansions proposed for the New York City area have engendered controversy. An expansion to bring rail service to LaGuardia Airport that former Port Authority board member Kenneth Lipper described as "the rails that will serve no one," have come under fire for being redundant or having poor projected ridership. Lipper estimated that the proposed LaGuardia expansion would carry only 1,000 to 3,000 passengers daily.

Supporters of the project, though, believe that in addition to alleviating crowding at Newark Penn Station, the new line could help to revitalize downtown.

Tom Wright, the president of the Regional Plan Association, an urban planning think tank, says that extending the PATH to the Newark airport would provide "an opportunity for redevelopment and for taking cars off downtown streets in Newark."

"We would like to see it combined with local planning so it benefits the South Ward and local residents," Wright says. "It doesn't work just as a benefit for investment bankers from lower Manhattan going out to Newark airport."
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