ROSELLE PARK, NJ — Mayor Carl Hokanson has added his voice to a growing list of of Union County mayors frustrated with NJ Transit about the condition of their local train stations.
One of Hokanson’s main concerns is the lack of an elevator at the Roselle Park station, making the platform inaccessible to disabled riders. Hokanson laid out his concerns in a Feb. 21 letter to the the newly installed NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett.
“We have been informed by media relations types at NJ Transit that because the condition of the station’s platform is in worse shape than anticipated, the project has been relegated to square one,” Hokanson wrote, referring to a project that had been set to include an elevator and rebuilt platform.
The NJ Transit Board of Directors on Oct. 26, 2016, approved a $2.8 million contract with Anselmi & Decicco Inc., of Maplewood, to rehabilitate the platform, records show. Hokanson said the plan included painting the station and fixing concrete stairs, but did not include building an elevator.
The original plan was upgraded to include the construction of an elevator to the platform about a month after a September state Legislative Oversight Committee hearing with Steven Santoro, the former NJ Transit director. But the original upgrades approved in 2016 have yet to be completed, Hokanson said, which has stalled the elevator project.
NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith said plans for the elevator and platform rehabilitation at the station are still in “the early stages of design.”
“NJ Transit is upgrading the original plan for platform repair at Roselle Park to include an elevator for improved customer access,” Smith said in a March 1 statement. “We are working to put contracts in place to continue advancing this project, which is currently in the early stages of design. It is too early in the process to set a construction timetable.”
State Sen. Thomas Kean Jr., asked Santoro about the station’s accessibility last year at the Oversight Committee meeting. He said in a letter to the mayor last year that NJ Transit confirmed in October that it would install an elevator as part of the statition’s rehabilitation project.
Kean is a Republican who represents the state’s 21st Legislative District, which includes parts of Union County, including Roselle Park.
“The difficulties experienced by a dance troupe with various disabilities that were traveling to the Roselle Park Arts Festival in September only underscored the urgency of the need (for an elevator), and our mutual desire to work together to ensure that Americans with Disabilities Act access was included as part of the expanded station project,” Kean wrote in the letter.
Kean was referring to a group of disabled performers who had to get off at the Union Train Station because it was ADA accessible, then travel from Union to Roselle Park, Hokanson said.
Hokanson said the borough does not have a contract with NJ Transit. The parking lot is owned by SP Plus Parking, a Chicago-based company, and the platform is owned by NJ Transit, he said.
The Roselle Park station sits on the Raritan Valley Line. Hokanson is part of an advocacy group that has called for more routes to Manhattan on Raritan Valley Line trains that don’t require a transfer in Newark. Limited “one-seat” service in off-peak hours began four years ago on the line, and the coalition is now seeking peak-hour service.
However, it has been told that peak-hour service is unlikely until another tunnel under the Hudson River, part of the Gateway Project, is completed.
Hokanson said the train station is pivotal to attracting and retaining new developments in the municipality.
“Additionally, let me emphasize that our local train station has been a major impetus to the recent development occurring in the borough,” Hokanson wrote in his letter to Corbett. “New businesses and housing construction is directly related to our centrally located train station. Each day of delay impacts negatively on these improvements.”
Officials in Linden and Elizabeth also have called on NJ Transit to complete improvements to their local stations in recent months, with little response from the transit agency.
In November, Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage called on Gov. Phil Murphy to nominate people to NJ Transit’s executive team who will help move along the projects.
Bollwage has previously raised concerns about a slow-moving reconstruction project at Elizabeth’s midtown train station that was unveiled in 2015. “
A NJ Transit spokesman told LocalSource in November that no timetable was set for fixes to the Linden Train Station. Linden City Council passed a bond resolution for $950,000 in December to start repairs to its station.