AC Rail Way final day before shutdown

NJ Transit’s Atlantic City Rail Line makes a stop in Hammonton during its final day of operation before shutting down in September.

ATLANTIC CITY — NJ Transit will reopen the Atlantic City Rail Line almost two weeks earlier than expected with additional lines, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday during a speech at a transportation conference in the resort.

The rail line will now open May 12, rather than May 24 as previously announced.

WATCH LIVE: Gov. Murphy to make NJ Transit announcement in Atlantic City

“I wish it would have come back six months ago. They took a lot longer than they should have,” said Carol Stephens, 60, of Galloway Township, who has taken the Atlantic City line for 28 years to her job in Camden. “I know they lost a lot of passengers by waiting so long.”

Murphy said it was important to get the service restored well ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

“This will ensure that our residents can get to work or to school with less stress and less inconvenience,” Murphy said in his address to the TransAction Conference at Tropicana Atlantic City, “and a far greater level of safety.”

Two more trains from Atlantic City will arrive in Philadelphia before noon, one of which will arrive before 9 a.m., he said.

“Though our working families should have been spared the aggravation and uncertainty over the last nine months, I’m pleased the Atlantic City Rail Line will restart before Memorial Day ,” said state Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, who has been working along with Democrat Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato to get service restored.

“I think it’s a good start,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, of plans to increase service. He has also been working on the issue with the Governor’s Office. “I’d like to have further conversations about upgrading in the future with possible express trains and an increased number of trains beyond what he’s already done.”

He said he was glad the governor kept his word, after promising to Van Drew to intercede and speed up the line’s reopening.

Murphy said the Princeton “Dinky” line between Princeton and Princeton Junction, the only other line in the state closed for installation of positive train control safety equipment, will also reopen May 12.

The governor said the Atlantic City Rail Line “is not just about connecting New Jersey residents with jobs in the Philadelphia region or getting the Atlantic City workforce to their jobs. It’s also about connecting Philadelphia (and beyond) with the attractions in Atlantic City and up and down the entire shore.”

NJ Transit closed the line in September, providing bus service instead between Atlantic City and Philadelphia and stops in between, to make the positive train control upgrades, which are intended to prevent collisions and derailments.

The line was supposed to reopen in January but didn’t. NJ Transit pushed back the restart date to March, then May, as it struggled with staffing and equipment shortages.

It resulted in a tsunami of protest from Atlantic City line users, who said the buses took too long, were uncomfortable and cost them valuable family time.

Van Drew warned ridership may be low when the line first reopens, because people have gotten used to using other means of transportation. But he said people will start using it again, given some time.

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti and NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett sat on the dais with Murphy .

The 43rd annual TransAction conference hosted about 950 attendees professionally involved in transportation from 22 states and three provinces, according to the conference’s vice chairman, Michael Vieira.

Still, NJ Transit’s announcement was the biggest transit news in the region Wednesday.

“I’m glad it’s coming back,” Stephens said. But the shutdown was “horrible, absolutely horrible,” she said, adding that carpooling cost her more money, and the bus schedules that were used as a stopgap measure did not line up with the train’s previous schedules.

The numerous false starts for the line’s reopening have made her skeptical.

“I talk to everyone who rides the train, and they all say the same thing,” Stephens said. “We’ll believe it when we see it.”

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

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