Officials announce requests for design for North Brunswick train station

NORTH BRUNSWICK – The train station project in North Brunswick is underway, creating a community, not just a method of commuting, according to Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT).

State, county and local officials announced on Oct. 14 that NJ Transit has approved the release of a Request for Proposal for the design and engineering of the train station, to be located on Main Street off Route 1 north in North Brunswick.

“Today’s announcement is a game-changing moment in building this critically needed transportation hub on the Northeast Corridor and getting it completed expeditiously,” Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said during the press conference, held virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The North Brunswick train station will bring relief to one of the state’s busiest rail lines, reduce traffic on Route 1, and attract new revenue to the region. For the county, the project has become emblematic of our continuous focus on forward momentum and prosperity for all our residents, businesses and partners,” Rios said.

Middlesex County, through the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, will serve as project manager through an agreement with NJ Transit for the design and construction of the train station, which was announced on Oct. 30, 2019. This is the first time a county has been allowed to manage the construction of a crucial infrastructure project.

“The MCIA stands ready with all partners involved to move this project forward,” said H. James Polos, executive director of the MCIA and a former county freeholder.

Polos said $5 million is earmarked for the first phase of a six-phase project.

On Oct. 28, 2016, officials announced the receipt of $50 million from the state Transportation Trust Fund for the project. Middlesex County officials pledged $20 million to add a station stop at the former Johnson & Johnson site.

With the RFPs to be released next week and due back in 45 to 60 days, the design phase could take 18 to 24 months before a shovel is put in the ground, officials said.

There is no timeframe yet for when riders may actually be on trains at the new station.

“The North Brunswick train station represents more than just convenience by providing an outlet between Jersey Avenue and Princeton Junction. It is an example of the future-forward thinking of Middlesex County, as the county spearheads economic development and growth in this region,” said Freeholder and NJ Transit board member Shanti Narra, who is a North Brunswick resident and a former member of the Township Council. “And not the least, more people on trains and fewer people on the roads will create a sustainable future for us all.”

Narra said she is “acutely aware” of the challenges commuters face, as she traveled into New York City for 16 years.

The project will reduce traffic along Route 1; increase revenue for North Brunswick and the region; make Middlesex County more commutable; connect the employment markets in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York; reduce crowding on trains; and add convenience for those going to work, according to comments by area officials.

The project also aligns itself with Destination 2040, which will guide how Middlesex County will grow and change over the next 20 years.

Rios said the county will become “an attractive destination to live, work and play in for generations to come.”

“Our announcement today confirms we are moving full steam ahead, even during a global pandemic,” he said.

Scaccetti added, “By creating a hub of transportation in Middlesex County, we give our residents and new residents a chance of where they choose to reside.”

She said the DOT is about more than just transportation, but instead mobility, and the train station project is “a new model for delivering a community-based train station” because of the transit village that surrounds it.

She also said the Transportation Trust Fund, which is meant to build projects focused on walking, driving, biking and mass transit, is being put to good use in this project, a “multi-model transportation network we worked so hard to develop.”

North Brunswick Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack thanked all involved for their vision; for being caring; and for their competence, skill and dedication to the train station project.

“This train station will make a positive reverberating impact to this region and to everyone who resides in it,” Womack said.

As announced in 2019 by Rios and the Board of Chosen Freeholders, the MCIA has successfully pivoted its focus from general county services to primarily economic development, leveraging its ability to bond and finance projects, according to information provided by the Middlesex County Office of Communication.

With Middlesex County’s strong AAA rating, secured for the past 20 consecutive years, the MCIA obtains financing at very low interest rates, allowing major capital ventures to be undertaken without increasing county taxes, in most cases.

Additionally, the MCIA has a professional staff with experience with redevelopment projects that span decades to ensure quality, timeliness and cost efficiency in its execution, according to the statement.

Garden Homes Development, which has been developing the MainStreetNB project since 2006, began its vision for a transit village and associated train station in 2006.

Currently, a Target, Costco with gas station, drive-up Panera Bread, Marriott and Greene Turtle are on the property, along with condominium units.

The second phase of the project was contingent upon the train station. When the project is completed, there will be 300,000 square feet of freestanding large retail establishments, 450,000 square feet of mixed use retail and commercial space, 50,000 square feet of freestanding commercial space, 195,000 square feet of office space, 1,875 residential units, and the hotel, for a total of 1.25 million square feet of development on the property.

“We want speed, but we also want quality, and we want innovation,” Scaccetti said. “Our goal is to really supply that transit village with transit quickly and as reasonably as possible.”

For updates on the transit village project, visit www.mainstreetnb.com

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com