New Jersey will purchase nine miles of an abandoned rail line that runs from Montclair to Jersey City to create the Essex-Hudson Greenway, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday.
The project is decades in the making, and comes after more than three years of negotiations between its proponents and owner Norfolk Southern Corporation. The state will purchase the 135-acre property that runs through eight towns — Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus and Jersey City — setting it aside for open space as a recreational bike and walking trail. In 2014, the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition adopted the Greenway campaign, then known as the Ice & Iron Greenway. The group later partnered with the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance and the Open Space Institute. In 2019, the three groups reached a preliminary purchase and sale agreement of $65 million with Norfolk Southern for the property after the rail company successfully filed a petition with the federal Surface Transportation Board, calling for the formal abandonment of the line. That agreement runs out in January 2022, and proponents were concerned that if the deadline was missed, Norfolk Southern would sell off pieces of the property and eliminate the possibility of a contiguous greenway. “This Greenway project has been a major campaign of ours for nearly a decade and we are thrilled that the state has taken this critical step in making this dream a reality that will offer so many benefits to all our residents,” said Debra Kagan, Executive Director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition. “It will bring enhanced quality-of-life to the entire region, provide access to open space to underserved communities, and be a landmark of development that promotes healthy communities.”