JERSEY CITY, NJ-The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center one year ago seriously disrupted the New York/New Jersey metro area’s transportation links, exacerbating the region’s slumping economic fortunes. Now, more than $206 million in federal funding has been approved to get those links back on track – literally.

At the Exchange Place PATH station in this city, which sits directly opposite Lower Manhattan, Gov. James McGreevey announced this week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide up to $150 million for improvements to PATH, a light rail system that links Newark and Jersey City to Manhattan. The Federal Transit Administration will add $56.1 million to that total, with the money to be used to expand and improve NJ Transit’s 78-acre main rail maintenance facility in nearby Kearny, NJ.

“We are still confronted with the challenge of rebuilding our region’s transportation infrastructure,” McGreevey said in making the announcement. “With the assistance of FEMA and FTA, we are providing New Jersey with the federal assistance needed to bolster our mass transportation system.”

“This funding comes at a critical time for our region,” added Rep. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), senior NJ member of the House Transportation Committee and a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. “It will help build on the foundation of a transportation system that proved essential on and after September 11.”

Specifically, the FEMA money will fund interim transportation measures until a direct PATH link to Lower Manhattan can be restored. PATH’s Lower Manhattan hub station, located directly underneath the Twin Towers, was completely destroyed in the attacks, and traffic now follows a circuitous route via Hoboken, NJ and Midtown Manhattan. A temporary PATH station at the WTC site is expected to be ready by the end of next year. The FEMA money will also be used to replace damaged rolling stock, build new park-and-ride lot and provide operational support for additional train and ferry service.

The FTA funding, meanwhile, will be used to expand NJ Transit’s maintenance yard in Kearny, necessitated by the added demand for the state agency’s commuter train service. The loss of PATH service to Lower Manhattan, coupled with changing commuter patterns resulting from the shifting of corporate locations throughout the region, has sent thousands of new riders to NJ Transit trains.

“New Jersey’s mass transit needs reached a critical point as new commuters flooded an already overburdened system,” explains state transportation commissioner Jamie Fox. “The effects of 9/11 reached well beyond Lower Manhattan.”

“Since September 11, ridership on NJ Transit’s commuter rail system has seen substantial increases, resulting in large numbers of standees on trains into New York Penn Station,” points out FTA administrator Jennifer Dorn. “These funds will help provide additional space and equipment to maintain an expanded fleet of vehicles.”

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