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RVL ONE SEAT RIDE:A GIANT STEP FORWARD

(The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Mayor Brindle on August 10, 2021.) As a 22-year NYC commuter, I endured the inconveniences of the Raritan Valley Line (RVL) train for far too long. My commute only worsened over time due to the increasing unreliability of a timely connection at Newark. I eventually switched to the bus for a “one seat ride” which then subjected me to the uncertainty of traffic congestion, bus breakdowns, and the indignity of traversing the Port Authority Bus Terminal. More importantly, the extended and unanticipated delays meant I missed far too many family dinners, kids’ activities, and bedtime rituals. And when I finally walked in the door at night, I was often not the mom I wanted to be due to the stress of a long and unpredictable commute. My own personal experience and desire to improve the quality of life for our commuting residents is why I founded the RVL Mayors’ Alliance with my co-chairs Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr and Bound Brook Mayor Bob Fazen three years ago. Our bi-partisan alliance of 32 mayors from towns along the RVL is committed to achieving equitable peak one-seat ride service that reflects our growing RVL ridership. As the largest line in the state by far without peak direct service into NYC, we and the commuting residents we serve are tired of being overlooked. The RVL Mayors have rallied on several occasions at Newark Penn Station (track 5!), submitted petitions, testified in Trenton, and have gained the attention of New Jersey Transit top brass, Governor Murphy, and our Congressman Tom Malinowski. They have all visited Westfield to publicly support our efforts, which has resulted in the restoration of off-peak direct service and five additional same platform transfers in Newark. This week marked yet another milestone in our efforts when Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg came to Westfield to participate in a roundtable discussion that I moderated along with Congressman Malinowski, the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, and the RVL Mayors’ Alliance. The subject was the impact of the proposed federal infrastructure bill, which will finally make Gateway and new Hudson River tunnels a reality, enabling the long overdue RVL peak one-seat ride service we deserve. Not only will this improve the quality of life for thousands of commuting residents, it will also spur economic opportunity, new employer prospects, and raise our overall property values. Like you, I was disappointed when former Governor Christie prioritized his national political ambitions and cancelled the ARC Tunnel in 2010, which would have been completed by now and peak one-seat ride service would already be available. I also felt let down by our local elected officials who remained silent, choosing partisanship over advocating for their own constituents. Rest assured, I will never stay silent. The promise of Gateway does not lessen my commitment to you to keep fighting for improved and expanded RVL service up until the first peak direct train travels through the newly built Hudson River tunnels. As one of many Westfield residents who has personally experienced the toll of an unnecessarily grueling commute, I will remain your fiercest advocate.

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