Department of Transportation

State Rail Plan

NJ TRANSIT train photo

The State Rail Plan (pdf) provides the opportunity to articulate New Jersey's vision for rail freight and passenger transportation, and to establish priorities for future investments and operations. The Plan will become a roadmap for maximizing the utility and potential of New Jersey's rail assets.

New Jersey is a national leader in passenger rail transportation. Amtrak NJ TRANSIT train photo and NJ TRANSIT passenger rail operations provide more than 900,000 passenger trips each weekday on a system that serves not only New Jersey, but also travelers from throughout the Northeast and beyond, who connect to other transport modes at a diverse range of intermodal transfer points such as Newark Penn Station, New York Penn Station, Trenton Transportation Center, Newark Liberty International Airport, and the Hoboken Terminal.

Bergen Tunnel photo

New Jersey's freight railroads also serve an essential transportation role. Three United States (US) North American Class I railroads, two Conrail operations, and more than a dozen shortline/regional railroads operate nearly 1,000 miles of Bergen Tunnel photo track. In 2009, 37 million tons of rail freight moved through the state. In that same year, New Jersey ranked fifteenth nationally in the number of carloads originated and twelfth in carloads terminated. The freight railroads play a vital role in moving goods to and from the State's ports – about 15 percent of the Port of New York and New Jersey's containers currently move by rail, a modal share that is anticipated to increase when the new class of post-Panamax vessels begins serving the Port. About half of the goods arriving in this region from overseas enter the US through West Coast ports and travel cross country by rail. Agricultural and mining products, also important, depart the southern portion of the State by rail. In addition, the railroads move a wide array of other products in New Jersey, including food, lumber, paper, and steel products.

Both rail passenger and freight operations are faced with a set of interrelated challenges moving forward:

  • Significant portions of the passenger and freight rail system are at or nearing capacity, and will not be able to accommodate expected increases in demand for passenger and freight movement without investment.
  • State of good repair issues affecting both rail infrastructure and rolling stock have already begun to impact reliability of passenger and freight movement on the State's rail system. The State and private rail operators must determine how to maintain the rail system to preserve existing service and set the groundwork for expanding passenger and freight rail services.
  • Connectivity issues – the state rail network is comprised of a half-dozen legacy railroads. Even after years of efforts to integrate the state rail network there are major improvements and connections that would simplify rail operations.
  • Operational constraints contribute to delays and affect the ability of passenger and freight operators to maximize throughput on certain lines.
  • Although New Jersey benefits from having a single commuter rail operator in NJ TRANSIT, the State still has to negotiate a complex institutional framework, including a need to coordinate with freight rail operators at key junctions and some shared track, and with other passenger rail operators like Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road at New York Penn Station, SEPTA at Trenton, PATH at Newark, Hoboken and Jersey City.
  • Private freight rail operators also encounter institutional disconnects when operating over passenger lines and in interacting with other freight railroads; for example, managing the interchange of railcars between Class I and shortline rail operators that may have differing labor agreements and work rules.
  • Both intercity passenger rail and freight rail operations must be coordinated over multi-state service networks. To some extent, improvements in New Jersey must be matched with corresponding improvements in other states.
  • Last, but certainly not least, New Jersey must determine how to fund future state-of-good-repair projects while improving and expanding services to meet the needs and expectations of passengers and freight shippers today and in the future.

Last updated date: August 7, 2019 10:05 AM