NJ Transit to buy 25 more new multi-level rail cars for $74M, courtesy of the Portal Bridge project

NJ Transit to buy 25 more new multi-level rail cars for $74M, courtesy of the Portal Bridge project

NJ Transit will add 25 new multi-level rail cars to its fleet, purchased for $74 million — money that came from the $1.5 billion Portal Bridge project.

NJ Transit’s Board of Directors approved a contract with Alstrom, which exercises an option NJ Transit had in a December 2018 contract to buy 113 multi-level III electric power cars and trailers to replace its aging Arrow III cars.

The newest generation of multi-level III cars would be delivered in July 2026, roughly two years after the last of the 113 car order is delivered in February 2026.

So why is a rail car order being funded by a bridge project? The 25 rail cars are part of the Federal Transit Administration’s full funding grant and scope of the project to build a new Portal North Bridge to carry the busy Northeast Corridor line over the Hackensack River in Kearny.

That document lists “procurement of rail cars needed for capacity expansion of the Project.” A federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant would fund $57 million or 80% of the rail car purchase price, leaving $14.26 million to be covered by New Jersey, according to the document.

“The 25 cars are an integral element of the (bridge) project as they allow us to meet the established goals for increased capacity,” said Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit CEO.

The Multi-Level III cars also will add to passenger-carrying capacity by replacing single-level cars on one rush hour train, and add an additional multi-level train in the morning rush and add cars to nine rush hour trains, NJ Transit documents said.

“One justification for the Portal Bridge Project was that it would afford NJ Transit the opportunity to increase service,” said Larry Penner, a retired FTA region 2 employee and transit advocate.

The 25 additional Multi-Level III rail cars would allow NJ Transit to replace old cars and expand the fleet, he said. Making the FTA documents public would better explain that to the board, commuters and taxpayers, he said.

Before the board voted to buy the new cars, a Gladstone branch commuter asked the board when those riders would get new cars.

“The trains are really old, the seats are uncomfortable, the doors are difficult to open,” said Matthew Marino of Bernardsville. “My question is when will the Gladstone line a GL line expect to get new rail cars? Our cars are old and you can see the age on them.”

What makes these a third generation of the multi-levels that first entered service in July 2007? The cars have customer amenities such as USB charging ports, security cameras and infotainment screens. The cars will be equipped with equipment for the Positive Train Control safety system mandated by the federal government and be capable of traveling up to 110 mph.

Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.

Larry Higgs may be reached at lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com.