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The Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Station (known as Secaucus Transfer during planning stages) is a major rail hub in Secaucus, New Jerseymarker opened on December 15, 2003. The construction of the $450 million, 312,000 ft² (29,000 m²) station atop the spot where the Hoboken-bound tracks pass under the New York Penn Stationmarker-bound tracks allows travelers to switch trains more conveniently and save an estimated fifteen minutes traveling to Midtown Manhattan.The station was named after Senator Frank Lautenberg, who had worked to allocate federal funds for the project.

Purpose and history

Unlike other New Jersey Transit rail stations, Secaucus Junction's main purpose is to act as a transfer between eight of the system's ten commuter rail lines. By building the station, New Jersey Transit eliminated one of its largest inconveniences, a lack of connectivity between New York Penn Station- and Hoboken-bound trains. Before Secaucus Junction was built, commuters on non-electrified lines that fed into Hoboken Terminalmarker were required to use PATH trainsmarker or ferries to reach Manhattanmarker and, by extension, other points in New York Citymarker. Commuters whose trains headed to Penn were able to connect to subway services across the city but were not able to reach Hoboken (apart from Morristown Line riders).

In addition to the actual station, construction involved an expansion and relocation of certain sections of track. The two-track Northeast Corridor mainline had to be expanded to four tracks to handle stopping and passing trains in the same direction, improving flexibility between New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains, the latter of which do not stop at the station. The Bergen County Line was significantly rerouted in order pass under the location of the station site and expanded to four tracks as well. Controversially, the bodies from the Hudson County Burial Groundsmarker had to be disinterred and moved to another cemetery.

In 2005, New Jersey Turnpike Exit 15X was opened to provide easier access to the station from the surrounding area. 15X is the least used interchange on the New Jersey Turnpike, partly due to a lack of parking at the junction. There is limited public parking at the junction as it was built to allow rail commuters to get to Midtown Manhattan more easily by switching from trains to Hobokenmarker to trains serving Penn Station, not for boarding. New Jersey Transit considers this to have been a mistake, and on June 1, 2009, completed the construction of the first parking lot at the station with rates as low as $5 after 4:00 PM

Secaucus Junction's large volume of service has made it attractive for alternative rail routings. Beginning on July 26, 2009, New Jersey Transit began offering frequent shuttle service to the Meadowlands Stationmarker at the Meadowlands Sports Complexmarker with the station serving as a major transfer point for passengers coming from New York City and other areas in New Jersey.. Also beginning in 2009, Secaucus Junction will serve trains coming from Metro-North's New Haven Line for connecting train service to football games at the Meadowlands. The service will only run for Giants and Jets games with 1:00 pm kickoffs on Sundays.

Station layout

Despite its name, Secaucus Junction is not a true junction, in which trains can be switched between lines; there is currently no rail connection between the upper and lower levels. It would be more accurately called Secaucus Transfer or the Secaucus Connection, since it allows passengers to change trains rather than allowing trains to change direction. This might change in the future, if the Access to the Region's Core program is built as planned.

Secaucus Junction is a three-level station with two levels of platforms and a connecting level on top. Bergen County Line, Main Line, Pascack Valley Line, and Meadowlands Line trains stop at the bottom level of the station, which has four tracks and two island platforms.

The middle level serves electric trains to and from New York Penn Station. Like the lower level, there are four tracks, but unlike the lower level, there are three platforms: two side platforms and one island platform. The inner platform serves tracks A and B and the side platforms serve tracks 2 and 3.

Finally, the upper level of the station acts as a concourse for switching passengers. In order to transfer between trains on different levels, all passengers travel to the concourse and pass through ticket gates and travel down to their destination platforms. At the center of this level is a 30ft-high (10m) steel, glass and titanium sculpture of a cattail (abundant in the surrounding Meadowlands) by San Franciscomarker artist Louis "Cork" Marcheschi. The tops of the cattails are lit from within in the purple, blue and orange colors of NJ Transit. There is a newsstand, a Dunkin Donuts, a small pub and waiting area around the concourse.

Of New Jersey Transit's eleven commuter rail lines, four do not make stops at Secaucus Junction, two of which operate only in the southern part of New Jersey. The Atlantic City Line runs between Atlantic City and Philadelphia-30th Street Stationmarker. The Princeton Branch is a rail spur on the Northeast Corridor Line that runs from Princeton Junctionmarker to Princeton stationmarker. The Raritan Valley Line terminates at Newark Penn Stationmarker, although New Jersey Transit has stated plans to extend the line to New York City via Secaucus once the Trans Hudson Express Tunnel is built. Despite passing through the station, no Gladstone Branch Midtown Direct trains stop at the station.

Controversy and criticism

One of the most prominent criticisms of Secaucus Junction at its opening was its low usage in comparison to the amount of money spent to build it. Despite costing $609m by the time opened, the station attracted only 5,600 daily riders on average in 2004, far lower than expected. Secaucus Junction initially had no on-site parking, despite being situated right next to Exit 15X of the New Jersey Turnpike. In June 2009, a parking facility was opened, and the opening of Meadowlands stationmarker has attracted additional ridership. Since 2004, the ridership at Secaucus Junction has increased to 17,000 average weekday passengers, making it the fourth largest station in the New Jersey Transit system.

References

  1. http://www.accesstotheregionscore.com/images/projectstudy.jpg
  2. Governor Corzine Cuts Ribbon on First Parking Facility at Frank R. Lautenberg Station, NJ Transit News, June 1, 2009.


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