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SECAUCUS, NJ-People started talking about it 40 years ago, and engineering work began in 1989. Actual construction started eight years ago, and after a two-year delay relating to the destruction of the World Trade Center PATH light rail station on 9/11, the Secaucus Transfer Station linking 10 of the Garden State’s 11 rail lines is officially open.

Only it’s not known by that name anymore. When Gov. James McGreevey and other dignitaries cut the ribbon at the end of last week, it was announced that the 312,000-sf complex would be known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Station at Secaucus Junction. The honoree is New Jersey’s once and US senator, who was instrumental in gaining $450 million in federal funding for the project.

The long-awaited project is costing $600 million, including $300 million for new trackage, $150 million for the building itself and the rest for ancillary work on the station and site, including a yet-to-be-constructed interchange with the adjacent New Jersey Turnpike. Besides the federal package, New Jersey Transit is getting help in the form of $53 million from New York’s MTA Metro-North Railroad, whose Rockland County rail lines tie in with the station.

The station effectively unifies the New Jersey commuter and interstate rail system, linking 10 of 11 lines, according to state DOT commissioner and NJ Transit board chairman Jack Lettiere. The only one not affected is South Jersey’s Philadelphia-to-Atlantic City line. For the time being, the facility is operational on weekends, but will be fully operational by the end of the year when Lower Manhattan’s PATH station reopens.

Shorter commute times and more transit options are among the benefits. “This new station allows NJ Transit customers to reach many new destinations in the region and shaves 10-15 minutes off the travel time of North Jersey rail passengers traveling to Midtown Manhattan,” according to Lettiere.

Still in the works is that turnpike interchange, delayed for two years by the excavation, cataloguing and relocation of a potter’s field burial site. And long-term plans for the immediate area, call for development of a cluster of office buildings and other commercial space.

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