Next stop Atlantic City Airport? The announcement could be heard on Atlantic City Line trains, depending on the outcome of a study about building a station at the north end of the airport.
NJ Transit and South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates Atlantic City Airport, agreed to conduct a study about the feasibility of building a station on land a developer has offered in Galloway Township.
And the Atlantic City Rail Line has its own advocacy group, which backs the proposed airport station and other improvements to bring more passengers to trains and possibly to the airport.
A new train station has been proposed as part of a larger conceptual redevelopment plan for land on Route 30 in Galloway at the northern border of airport property. It’s the latest effort in several years to build a train station to serve the airport. Now, a shuttle bus links the airport to the Egg Harbor station and two NJ Transit bus routes at Richard Stockton University.
Both the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which runs the airport, and NJ Transit have agreed to study the airport station proposal.
“It has been a topic of discussion for many years. Most recently, a redeveloper in Galloway Township desires to include the station in his site plan,” said Steve Mazur, SJTA Chief Engineer. “NJ Transit reached out to the SJTA to partner on the study.”
The idea of an airport station isn’t new, and was raised as part of a larger Atlantic City Rail Line study the agency conducted about a decade ago, said Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman.
The joint study will look at the physical and operational feasibility of constructing a station at a site on the north side of the rail right-of-way at a location east of the Pomona Road crossing that is adjacent to the Pomona Commons redevelopment site, she said.
The study will not investigate other options such as bus service or bus rapid transit to and from the airport, Snyder said.
“The first step is determining feasibility, and that’s what we would be doing,” she said. “Subsequent tasks would explore design, operations and services.”
The study has a $400,000 budget, which will be split between NJ Transit and the Authority, Mazur said. The only other option being considered at this time is the feasibility of a rail spur into the Atlantic City International Airport property, he said.
The next steps are finalizing the agreement, hiring the consultant, which will be done by the SJTA and starting the feasibility assessment, Snyder said. The study completion date has yet to be determined, but is expected to take approximately 10 months from a set start date, she said.
This station is being proposed as part of a mixed-use development concept planned on the site of a former Catholic Church. The conceptual redevelopment plan for the 97,000 square foot development known as Pomona Commons was added to the township master plan by the Galloway council in June, the Press of Atlantic City reported. It was proposed by ARK Innovation.
The new station would rely on a bus to transport passengers on the final leg of the journey between the rail line and airport terminal.
Building an airport station has been studied on and off and was most recently the subject of a bill introduced in May 2016 by two North Jersey Assemblymen, Tim Eutace, D-Bergen and John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex. It would have required the state Department of Transportation to build an airport station, but that legislation never got to a vote.
A proposed station also picked up backing from the Atlantic City Rail Line Coalition, formed in May by businesses, non-profits and public advocacy groups promoting improvements on the line to boost ridership, encourage tourism and future transit-oriented development at stations on the line between Atlantic City and Philadelphia.
“Our regional airport doesn’t have a rail station. The shuttle bus goes to Egg Harbor City miles away,” said Lauren Moore, Atlantic City Rail Coalition executive member. “We’d like a train station right into the airport. We feel very strongly and very supportive.”
He called an airport station “a great opportunity to take our international airport to the next level” and hoped it would encourage airlines to add service to and from the airport.
“Travelers aren’t interested in shuttles, it sounds complicated,” Moore said. “When you can say you have a train station on the airport site, that’s a different story. We’re gratified to see the SJTA partnering with NJ Transit to do a study”
The coalition is interested in promoting transit-oriented development, a concept of building residential housing for commuters in walking distance of train stations to eliminate traffic, retail and office space, at other stations on the rail line, in conjunction with municipal officials.
“It’s why we partnered with the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic County Economic Alliance to work with all the municipalities up and down the (rail) line to generate support, he said. “We’d like to work with NJ Transit to discuss alternatives for increasing service.”
Currently, Pleasantville is the only Atlantic County municipality in the state DOT’s Transit Village program where two transit-oriented development were proposed and the Villages at St. Peters has been built. Pleasantville is served by the SJTA’s airport shuttle bus. There are 33 municipalities that are in the transit village program.
Other municipalities on the Atlantic City Rail Line are in NJ Transit’s Transit Friendly Planning program, including Galloway and Cherry Hill.
“This is a regional effort up and down the line,” Moore said. “We’ve reached out to other rail coalitions and each municipality that hosts a station. The response has been universally on board. We want to maximize the potential of rail.”
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Larry Higgs may be reached at [email protected].