October 19, 2007

Ramp to Nowhere; 15X is the Loneliest Exit in Jersey

IT'S THE MAYTAG repairman of turnpike exits. It's the exit to nowhere. It's Exit 15X.

It links the turnpike to the Secaucus Junction train station. It cost $250 million to construct and is the least-used exit on the entire turnpike. In December 2006, 6,658 vehicles a day used the exit. Exit 11 (the Garden State Parkway exit in Woodbridge) the most used, averaged 125,698.

The original projections for 15X estimated 40,000 cars a day. It's late in the game to hash out how or why this boondoggle was built. There were grand plans for an office and hotel complex that never came to fruition. It is unlikely that anything big is about to happen off Exit 15X.

Ridership through Secaucus Junction has increased more than 50 percent since 2003, when the station opened. But commuters who want to get to the station by car must be dropped off. There are no parking lots. A large park-and-ride may add to the traffic on the turnpike near the station, but it would lessen the number of cars heading over bridges and through tunnels to Manhattan. Given the state's precarious finances, it's unlikely the state will fund a parking project.

All solutions do not have to be costly or complicated. NJ Transit should develop an integrated bus shuttle system from throughout Bergen County to Secaucus Junction. The area of Bergen County served by the Pascack Valley Line has limited rail service. Even with the introduction of two-way service on the line at the end of the month, trains going from Bergen County into Hoboken and New York will be minimal in the evening. Commuters need more options now, not later.

Establishing express bus service to Secaucus Junction from key locations throughout Bergen County would be a boon to commuters, take more cars off the road and bring more passengers into the Secaucus station. It also would not require the same funding as a massive parking structure.

Exit 15X can handle the bus traffic and provide direct access to a train station that sits in the middle of nowhere. One is the loneliest number, but 15X is the loneliest exit.


(c) 2007 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.