LINDEN, NJ — The Linden City Council in December approved a $950,000 bond ordinance to make capital improvements to the city’s train station, but without a signed agreement from NJ Transit to pay the city back for the work.
The city’s decision to finance improvements to the station has been discussed for months, pending NJ Transit’s admission it was responsible for the work. NJ Transit only said in November it was reviewing the needs at the station and would provide a timetable of what work may be done afterward.
“Discussions continue on all aspects of the lease agreement with the city of Linden,” NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith said in a brief statement on Jan. 5.
Third Ward Councilman Peter Brown provided LocalSource with a tour of the station in October to point out multiple problems, which included a stairway to the New York-bound platform that was unusable due to a crumbling foundation, missing sheets of acrylic glass protecting ticket machines and large gaps in the pavement on a ramp leading to the platform.
The decision as to what is considered a repair and what is maintenance will determine who pays for the fixes. Brown contends that the city is not responsible for what he considers major repairs.
The city’s approval of the bond ordinance is also not admission of accepting responsibility for the fixes at the station, Brown said.
“We’re not accepting responsibility,” he said in a Jan. 4 phone interview. “We’re going to hold NJ Transit responsible, whether it’s negotiating the credit back for the repairs. What we are doing in Linden is trying to step up to the plate and say ‘enough is enough.’”
The contract between the two entities, which was obtained by LocalSource, specifies the responsibilities of the city and NJ Transit.
Linden is essentially responsible for the daily upkeep of the station. It’s also responsible for lighting, painting, repair of sidewalks and concrete decks, and the maintenance and repair of fences, guardrails, stairways and minor platform repairs.
NJ Transit, meanwhile, is responsible for replacing certain items if the city deems them beyond repair, the contract states. Work that falls under the purview of NJ Transit also includes repairs to columns, removal of snow on train platforms and painting of yellow safety lines.
The city keeps 60 percent of the revenue generated from subleases and parking permits at the station, with the remainder going to NJ Transit. Brown said the city wants NJ Transit to pay back the city’s bonds by digging into NJ Transit’s share of the revenue.
Brown, Councilman Barry Javick and Mayor Derek Armstead met with the NJ Transit Government Relations and Real Estate departments Nov. 13, but the parties did not reach an agreement.
The $950,000 bond ordinance was tabled in late 2017 pending NJ Transit’s approval. NJ Transit’s delay in approving an agreement posed issues for the ordinance, which was set to expire around the end of 2017.
The ordinance, which was finally approved Dec. 19, appropriates up to $1 million for the fixes at the station. City bonds would cover $950,000, while the remaining $50,000 would come out of the city’s budget, Brown said.
Brown added that although the ordinance approved up to $1 million for the work, the city may not use all of the total funds.
“Honestly, there’s no set amount because there’s the unknown if NJ Transit is going to step up and do any of these repairs,” Brown said.
Brown expects that the work at the station will begin sometime in the spring, after the winter weather abates. In the meantime, the city will obtain quotes for the work and look for contractors.
“It’s unfair to passengers, to commuters who use that train station, to have to continue to have to use a facility like this that needs repair,” Brown said.