Southern New Jersey Light Rail began construction on May 8 as part of a larger strategy of planned development in the state.
Running along the route 130 corridor, the line is anticipated to concentrate new development and encourage investment along 34 miles of track between the cities of Camden and Trenton.
Supporters of the new line are heartened by the success of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Project, which opened April 15 in Northern New Jersey. The first phase of the line operates along 7.5 miles of track in Bayonne and Jersey City, and is expected to serve 9,200 daily riders by the end of the year.
Daniel Censullo, senior director of new rail construction for New Jersey Transit, said the Hudson-Bergen line has already benefited the communities it serves.
"If you came up here, you would see the tremendous amount of residential and commercial development right along the right-of-way," Censullo said.
The new line in Southern New Jersey is a $604 million design, build, operate and maintain project for the Southern New Jersey Rail Group, a consortium with major partners Bechtel and Adtranz. By integrating all phases of the endeavor, New Jersey Transit hopes to reduce time and cost.
The consortium already purchased the light rail right-of-way on 32 miles of Conrail track. Construction of two new bridges, including a major undertaking to span Rancocas Creek, is part of the 36-month plan. There will eventually be 20 stations and three park and ride facilities when the line is completed. Ridership is expected to begin at 9,300 passengers daily.
"I think we are going to capture the majority of the population in this area as they move toward the major job centers of Camden and Trenton," Censullo said.
Light rail will not only deliver commuters to Camden and Trenton and their considerable intermodal capacities, it will attract new investment in the downtowns that house stations. Because Southern New Jersey is lightly developed, the hope is that the new line will ignite the economy while restricting development to the corridor, conserving the farmland and environmentally sensitive areas that surround it.
John Coscia, executive director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (which was involved in feasibility studies and station design for New Jersey), said the project has great potential.
"From a smart growth point of view, from a compact infill point of view, it makes sense to have transit serve that corridor," Coscia said.