Yesterday, at a press conference on the platform of the Dunellen, New Jersey rail station, New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno officially announced that the Borough of Dunellen has become the 26th New Jersey municipality to be officially named a transit village. The NJDOT Transit Village Initiative creates incentives for municipalities to pursue development around transit stations, with the goals of revitalizing communities, encouraging walking and biking, and allowing people to access shops, restaurants, employment opportunities and transit without having to get into an automobile. After being defunded in NJDOT’s 2012 Capital Program, and months of advocacy efforts by Tri-State, funds for the initiative were restored in the 2013 Capital Program at $1 million.
At yesterday’s event, Dunellen Mayor Robert Seader highlighted the importance of receiving the transit village designation to the borough’s future efforts to bring new residents downtown. NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson’s comments echoed Tri-State’s calls to maintain existing transportation infrastructure, rather than spending limited taxpayer dollars on road expansion projects that offer little long term congestion relief. Commissioner Simpson also spoke about what a tremendous asset and catalyst for redevelopment the Dunellen rail station is, stating, ”This is like old wine in a new bottle – all of the ingredients for success are here in Dunellen. In the most congested state in the country…we must reinvest in existing infrastructure.”
While no major development projects directly associated with the new transit village designation were announced today, Mayor Seader explained that the borough is in talks to redevelop a number of large parcels of land in close proximity to the station, noting that the transit village designation will be crucial to encouraging development going forward. Perhaps Lieutenant Governor Guadagno best summed up how important a rail station can be in terms of encouraging development, creating a lively downtown, and bringing new residents into surrounding areas by joking, “I look forward to being your realtor.”