Port Authority backtracks, says South Ward station still in PATH plans

By Larry Higgs | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 18, 2017

Port Authority officials said plans to build a station in Newark's South Ward are still part of a project to extend the rail line to Newark Airport, after representatives told lawmakers Tuesday that the station was dropped.

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Port Authority officials retracted statements made by representatives who told state lawmakers Tuesday that a South Ward station was cut from a proposed extension the PATH system to Newark Airport.

The about-face came after Mayor Ras J. Baraka and South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James criticized the agency on Wednesday. Baraka called on the authority's board to not vote on a proposed $32 billion capital plan which would fund the PATH extension unless it contains the South Ward station.

Port Authority officials said the South Ward station, to be built across the tracks from the NJ Transit airport station near Weequahic Park, remains a key part of the proposed PATH extension to the airport.

"The proposed $1.7 billion extension of the PATH rail line to Newark Liberty International Airport includes a new station in Newark's South Ward in the Dayton (Street) neighborhood, (and) this remains a key original element of the project," officials said in a statement Wednesday.

The station remains in the $32 billion revised capital plan which funds the PATH extension, officials said. Newark officials were counting on the station to help spur the economic revitalization plans for the South Ward.

"This new station would provide easy access for Dayton residents and regional commuters to PATH, local buses, NJ Transit, as well as Newark Liberty International via AirTrain Newark, while spurring economic development in the city's South Ward," officials said.

A Port Authority official, speaking on background, said that representatives testifying to the Joint Legislative Oversight committee got confused between the references to South Ward and South Street, a station that was suggested and dropped on the city's East Side.

South Street is a main artery through Newark's Ironbound section.

The South Street station was suggested as a replacement of a long-demolished Pennsylvania Railroad station on the Northeast Corridor on McCarter Highway.

Officially, project documents call the South Ward station the Dayton Street Neighborhood Station, the official said. Dayton Street forms the easternmost boundary of Weequahic Park.

The potential South Ward station could be located in the vicinity of Frelinghuysen Avenue, near Haynes Avenue, where the city is seeking to redevelop the area around a vacated housing project.

The testimony on Tuesday left some lawmakers questioning whether they supported the PATH extension without the South Ward station.

At the hearing on Tuesday, Port Authority representatives said building the station wasn't feasible because it would require moving lanes of McCarter Highway to make room for it along the Northeast Corridor line, which the PATH extension would parallel.

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