Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link
(A New Jersey Urban Core Project)

Northern New Jersey

(November 1998)

Description

The New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) is proposing a one mile, five station Minimum Operable Segment (MOS) of an 8.8-mile, 16 station light rail transit (LRT) system which will eventually link Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey. The MOS will function as an extension of the existing 4.3 mile Newark City Subway light rail line, running from Broad Street Station in Newark to Newark Penn Station. NJ Transit estimates that the MOS will cost $150.0 million (YOE dollars), including associated stations, and will serve 13,300 riders daily in 2015. NJ Transit estimates that the entire 8.8-mile project will have a capital cost of $694.0 million (1995 dollars) and will carry 24,900 riders per day in 2015.

Summary Description

Proposed Project:

Light Rail Transit

(Minimum Operable Segment)

0.97 miles, 5 stations

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):

Section 5309 Share ($YOE):

$150.0 million

$112.5 million

Annual Operating Cost ($1996):

$2.3 million

Ridership Forecast (2015):

13,300 average weekday

6,400 daily new riders

FY 2000 Financial Rating:

FY 2000 Project Justification Rating:

FY 2000 Overall Project Rating:

Medium-High

Medium-High

Highly Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.

Status

The Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link is being advanced in three stages: the MOS, a one mile connection between the Broad Street Station and Newark Penn Station; the second segment, a one mile line from Newark Penn Station to Camp Street in downtown Newark; and the third segment, a seven mile LRT line from downtown Newark to Elizabeth, including a station serving Newark International Airport. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) covering all three stages of the full build alternative was completed in January 1997. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which addressed only the MOS, was completed in October 1998. The Federal Transit Administration signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for the MOS in November 1998. Environmental work on the other segments of the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link awaits completion of additional planning study.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(57) authorized the New Jersey Urban Core Project, which consists of eight separate elements, including the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link, for final design and construction. TEA-21 continued Section 3031(b) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) which stated:

[F]or the purpose of calculating non-Federal contributions to the net cost of the New Jersey Urban Core Project, the Secretary [of Transportation] shall include all non-Federal contributions made on or after January 1, 1987 for construction of any element of the project. Non-Federal funds committed to one element of the project may be used to meet the non-Federal share requirement for any other element of the project.

Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $17.91 million in Section 5309 funds for the New Jersey Urban Core Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link Project.

Evaluation

Under Section 3031(c) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link, as part of the New Jersey Urban Core Project, was exempted from the New Starts criteria. This exemption has been continued under TEA-21. Although exempted, NJ Transit provided selective data on the MOS for the FY 1999 and FY 2000 New Starts Reports. Data in the criteria tables below reflect consolidated New Starts information that

NJ Transit submitted for the FY 1999 and 2000 reports. No information was submitted on a TSM alternative. N/A indicates that information is not available for specific criteria at this time.

Justification

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

NJ Transit estimates the following annual travel time savings for the MOS.

 

Mobility Improvements

New Start vs.

No-Build

New Start vs. TSM

Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours)

0.3 million

N/A

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 3,645 low-income households within a ˝ mile radius of the proposed five stations, approximately 33% of the total households within a ˝ mile radius of the stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Northern New Jersey is a "severe" nonattainment area for ozone and a "moderate" nonattainment area for carbon monoxide. NJ Transit estimates that in 2015, implementation of the MOS would result in the following emission reductions.

 

Criteria Pollutant

New Start vs.

No-Build

New Start vs. TSM

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

101

N/A

Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)

7

N/A

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

24

N/A

Particulate Matter (PM10)

N/A

N/A

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

2,740

N/A

Values reflect annual tons of emissions reductions.

NJ Transit estimates that implementation of the MOS would result in the following annual savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

 

Annual Energy Savings

New Start vs.

No-Build

New Start vs. TSM

BTU (million)

22,090

N/A

Values reflect annual BTU reductions.

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

NJ Transit projects a slight decrease in systemwide operating cost per passenger mile for the MOS compared to the No-Build alternative.

 

No-Build

TSM

New Start

System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2015)

$0.47

N/A

$0.46

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: High

NJ Transit projects the following cost effectiveness index for the MOS.

 

 

New Start vs.

No-Build

New Start vs.

TSM

Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger

$5.70 

N/A

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1996 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium-High

The project’s Medium-High Land Use rating reflects the high density and transit ridership of Newark’s Central Business District (CBD) and City and State policies and activities which have promoted transit supportive development. The area surrounding the MOS alignment is an older, mostly built-up CBD with moderate to high densities, a variety of commercial, civic, and institutional land uses, and a high transit-mode share. Penn Station is a major intermodal rail and bus hub. The 1998 Master Plan for the Penn Station area includes enforceable Design Guidelines which support transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly development. Increasing commercial and residential occupancy rates in the CBD may indicate that the area is on the verge of more high-density development and redevelopment. The State has established abatements to promote urban redevelopment and legislation is being considered to provide disincentives for "urban sprawl" development.

The City has strong transit-supportive policies, including promotion of high-density and mixed use development, pedestrian design improvements and amenities, and strict limitation on parking at new developments. A consortium of downtown businesses and property owners are working with the City to develop a Special Improvement District, which would collect a fee to be used for public safety, beautification and image improvement projects. Major pedestrian-oriented development is planned along the nearby Passaic River waterfront. Ground has been broken on a 6,000-seat minor league baseball stadium near the Washington Park Station. Air-rights construction is being considered over the Performing Arts Center and Center Street Stations. To date, the only commitments for station development have been from institutions, rather than the commercial community.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 25%

The proposed Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link MOS Financing Plan calls for $112.5 million (75 percent) of the $150.0 million total capital cost to be funded from Section 5309 New Starts funds (escalated dollars). Section 5307 (Urbanized Area Formula) funds would provide $35.7 million (24 percent) of the total capital costs. The local, non-Federal share of the capital cost would be approximately 1 percent, with $1.4 million (1 percent) from leveraged leases and $0.4 million (0.2 percent) from donated right-of-way. Under Section 3031(b) of ISTEA, described above, the Newark Elizabeth Rail Link, as an element of the New Jersey Urban Core project, is not required to meet the statutorily mandated requirement (49 U.S.C. 5309(h)) that the Federal share of an individual transit project may not exceed 80 percent of the total capital cost. The elements of the New Jersey Urban Core Project are viewed cumulatively, rather than individually, to ascertain compliance with the requirement for an 80 percent maximum Federal share and 20 percent minimum non-Federal share of net Project costs.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High capital plan rating reflects the financial strength of NJ Transit and the existence of New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) as a secure, permanent source of capital funds. The TTF provides nearly 50 percent of NJ Transit’s capital program revenues. NJ Transit’s 20-year cost flow analysis includes $2.7 million in annual costs for six Light Rail Transit vehicles for the Newark-Elizabeth Rail Link to be funded from the TTF, above the project’s $150.0 million capital cost. Federal sources traditionally account for less than 50 percent of NJ Transit’s total capital program.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High operating plan rating reflects the strong overall operating financial condition of NJ Transit. NJ Transit is required by law to maintain a balanced budget and the agency has the ability to secure sufficient funding from State Operating Assistance and farebox revenues to meet projected operating expenses. In FY 1999, NJ Transit system operations generated a surplus of $20.7 million in revenues from fares, State Operating Assistance, and other sources. The MOS’s Operating Finance Plan includes reasonable operating and maintenance cost estimates and escalation factors. The Plan assumes a high farebox recovery ratio of 96 percent, with the need for State Operating Assistance of only $0.1-$0.2 million annually. Currently farebox and other system-generated revenues offset 57 percent of NJ Transit’s operating costs systemwide.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

 

Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding

For MOS ($million)

 

Appropriations to Date

Federal:    
  §5309 New Starts

$112.50

($17.91 million appropriated through FY99)
  §5307 Urbanized Area Formula Funds

 

35.70

 
Local:    
  Leveraged leases

Donated right-of-way

1.40

0.40

 
 

TOTAL

$150.00

 
NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

MAP