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Mass Transit : Back to the Future ,old plans are new again

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file photo by Boyd Loving

A train delay for the ages; increasing service in Bergen County among several stalled plans

NOVEMBER 29, 2015    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2015, 12:27 AM

In May 1928, a group of forward thinkers in New York City drew a map of North Jersey that envisioned passenger trains running from Englewood to Jersey City on an existing set of railroad tracks, part of a network they confidently named the “Ultimate Suburban Rapid Transit Plan.”

At 1 p.m. on a Thursday this month, 86 years later, three powerful New Jersey senators gathered in a conference room overlooking the same tracks to demand a return of passenger trains to the line.

“This is a project that should have happened years ago,” state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, said of the project, known as the “Northern Branch.”

Bringing more rail service to Bergen County may be North Jersey’s most stubborn transportation dream. Even now, depending on how one counts, there are between six and 11 efforts to return passenger service to historic train lines. And although passenger trains, bus lines and highways have spread across the region in the post-World War II era, people here have pushed, planned, schemed and begged for even more commuter rail, either to reduce traffic congestion or to connect places that are difficult to reach by mass transit. And the problem grows more acute the closer one gets to New York City. For densely populated towns in eastern Bergen County, like Englewood, Fort Lee and Tenafly, trains simply are not an option, as state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, often points out.

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