New Jersey Transit teams with Middlesex County for train station

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An agreement forged by New Jersey Transit for a new county and state-funded North Brunswick train station may signal a new partnership model for the agency.

NJ Transit announced Wednesday a memorandum of understanding with the Middlesex County Improvement Authority to spearhead the design and construction of the long-sought $50 million station project. The new station proposed for property that once housed a Johnson & Johnson facility will be funded through the Garden State’s Transportation Trust Fund with Middlesex County contributing $20 million.

New Jersey Transit under [executive director Kevin Corbett] and his team have acquiesced control of this project to a large degree to the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said at a press conference Wednesday. “It is a new model for New Jersey Transit.”

Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who is also a NJ Transit board member, stressed that the MOU with Middlesex County underscore’s the agency’s commitment toward collaboration with other entities to bring important capital projects across the finish line. She said the North Brunswick station could become a template for other municipalities seeking to finance similar station projects with the agency.

State lawmakers initially appropriated funding for the North Brunswick station in 2016 when the legislature renewed and expanded the TTF for eight years at $2 billion annually. The North Brunswick project is considered a key part of the Northeast Corridor line since it will break up a 14-mile stretch without a station, the longest for any NJ Transit branch.

The North Brunswick project was delayed as NJ Transit faced multiple fiscal challenges including a scramble to meet the Federal Railroad Administration’s Dec. 31, 2018 deadline for installing positive train control safety equipment and a lengthy legal battle with Amtrak that ended with a $182 million settlement in February. An audit released last October showed that NJ Transit has inadequate financing for its $5.3 billion of capital assets with the lack of consistent state funding holding back important infrastructure projects.

Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said the county is planning to begin the concept and design phases of the station in the next few months in hopes of achieving final engineering and permit approvals. He said the hope is to break ground on the station in the next two years.

"We hope that with the completion of this project in partnership with New Jersey Transit, this process can serve as an innovative new framework for how major infrastructure projects like this are tackled in the future,” Rios said. “The county is a major transportation center within the state of New Jersey and this station will become a significant piece of infrastructure with an already vital transportation system.”

Middlesex County is rated Aa1 by Moody’s Investors Service with a stable outlook. The county in Central New Jersey has a population of 837,288, according to American Community Survey estimates.

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