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(rshsdepot) Harmon Cove, NJ

Harmon Cove Station will close

Bus shuttle service to new station will start in July

Al Sullivan - The Secaucus Reporter
Reporter senior staff writer February 23, 2003

In anticipation of the Harmon Cove train station closing this coming July,
the Town Council voted Feb. 11 to hire George Jensen as its transportation
coordinator. He will handle scheduling and other issues involving shuttling
passengers from Harmon Cove and other areas to the new $450 million Secaucus
Transfer train station.

Jensen will receive $49,000 a year and will serve in a capacity similar to
supervisor in the Department of Public Works.

Second Ward Councilman John Bueckner voted against the appointment, saying
that he had problems with the position.

"I'm not against the person, but I'm not certain that the position is
warranted," he said.

In a later interview, Mayor Dennis Elwell said the position will be vital in
the upcoming months with the anticipation of the closing of the Harmon Cove
train station.

Over the last year, NJ Transit has made use of its right-of-way through
town-owned property to redirect trains coming into Harmon Cove. Tracks will
turn south along the Hackensack River and will connect with the Main Line,
which goes through the south end of Secaucus. The Main Line will stop at the
new Secaucus Transfer Station, commonly known as Allied Junction.

"We were notified by NJ Transit that we will have to provide transportation
for those using the Harmon Cove train station as of July," Elwell said.

While a definite date has not been set for the closing of the station, those
currently using the Harmon Cove Station will be able to get their trains at
the Secaucus Transfer Station in September, when the transfer station begins
limited operations. In fact, said Elwell, "The transfer station will be open
to Harmon Cove and Secaucus residents only." The Transfer Station will phase
in other commuter lines starting in early 2004.

The Harmon Cove development has 2,000 residents, many of whom will be
affected by the change.

In public hearings held during the early 1990s on Allied Junction - the
commercial portion of the Secaucus Transfer Station - the issue of the
station's closing was among the most frequently asked questions.

According to Mayor Dennis Elwell, then-Allied President William McCann told
residents of Harmon Cove that the station would stay open. But plans
originally presented by New Jersey Transit in the 1980s had showed the
Harmon Cove station closing once the transfer station came on line.

"We researched the issue and at no point can we find NJ Transit promising to
keep the Harmon Cove station open," Elwell said.

Early last year, the town of Secaucus received two new shuttle buses from NJ
Transit to handle the responsibility to make certain that those currently
using the Harmon Cove train station can access the Transfer station.

This was done in conjunction with another program in which the town received
a free shuttle bus. While Secaucus is responsible for maintaining the free
bus and must maintain a route around town that will allow Secaucus residents
to access the transfer station, the questions of who will pay the salaries,
benefits and repairs on the Harmon Cove shuttle buses remains unresolved.

Although the town has no way to determine now what train schedules will be
like when the change comes, the hiring of Jensen this week is part of the
plan of operations.

"We needed someone who can set up scheduling and make certain that there are
drivers for each bus and that repairs are made," Elwell said.

The current shuttle bus service around town is operated by Department of
Public Works Superintendent Mike Gonnelli.

"But Mike has many other responsibilities and we wanted someone who can be
responsible for this," Elwell said. "But we did not want to make this a
Department head. So George will be in Gonnelli's department."

Major project

Shuttle schedules will have to be tied to the train schedule at the Transfer

The Transfer Station, located in the south of Secaucus next to the Turnpike,
has been touted as an important step toward easing traffic congestion on
roadways throughout Northern New Jersey, allowing passengers easier access
to central Manhattan by rail, as well as making connections between some of
the more important rail lines between Trenton and New York City. Transit
officials estimate that travel time to Manhattan's Penn Station will be six
minutes, as opposed to 15 to 20 minutes via the Path Station from Hoboken or
from the various ferries, and the connection could generate as many as
16,000 riders daily.

The project links many of the rail lines servicing northern New Jersey,
including NJ Transit's Main and Bergen County lines as well as Amtrak's
Northeast Corridor line. This center would form a hub that is expected to
make it easier for commuters to use trains from a wider area and possibly
eliminate auto traffic from local highways and congestion caused in other
rail terminals in Hoboken and Newark.

"George will keep the schedule for Harmon Cove, file forms required and take
responsibility for the community bus we currently operate," Elwell said.

The vehicles will be maintained by the DPW.

"George owned a small trucking firm for 35 years and so he knows the forms,"
Elwell said. "He is also a former police officer so he also knows what to do
in the event of an accident."

What's the fare?

Another unanswered question will be the cost for Secaucus and Harmon Cove
riders once at the new train station.

NJ Transit has already announced that travelers from other trains getting
off at Secaucus will have to pay and additional fee, similar to an
arrangement currently done at the Newark Airport train station. This fee
will help pay for the massive federal and state loans made to help construct
the $450 million station. NJ Transit officials, however, said the fare to
Penn Station in Midtown could ultimately be less than commuters now pay to
reach Manhattan via Hoboken - a trip that also involves buying PATH or ferry
tickets. A one-way ticket to Penn Station from Secaucus could cost up to
$2.50; a one-way PATH ticket is $1.50 and a one-way ferry ticket, $3.

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org