• Aldene Plan History

  • Discussion of the CNJ (aka the Jersey Central) and predecessors Elizabethtown and Somerville, and Somerville and Easton, for the period 1831 to its inclusion in ConRail in 1976. The historical society site is here: http://www.jcrhs.org/
Discussion of the CNJ (aka the Jersey Central) and predecessors Elizabethtown and Somerville, and Somerville and Easton, for the period 1831 to its inclusion in ConRail in 1976. The historical society site is here: http://www.jcrhs.org/

Moderator: CAR_FLOATER

  by TheBaran
Watching a video on the history of the CNJ thru Union County (put out by a local cable station in Fanwood, NJ) and the narrator indicated that the Aldene plan was officially known as the "Palmer Plan". Did a little Internet digging and found out the 1967 track re-work on the CNJ was a small part of the larger picture to build the World Trade Center. The following portion was taken from:

World Trade Center - History Commentary
Casting Giant Shadows: The Politics of Building the World Trade Center, by Roger Cohen (Originally published in the Winter 1990/1991 issue of Portfolio)

In March of 1961, the agency issued a proposal for a $335-million project of 11 million square feet that would include a 72-story world trade mart, with a hotel, a world trade institute and exhibition facility, a 30-story world commerce exchange to house government offices and agencies, a 20-story trade center gateway building housing international banking, law and other business services, and a securities exchange building - in the shape of a tapered barrel - that would house the stock and commodity markets.

The Port Authority report said the trade center would "stimulate the flow of commerce through the Port, would be economically feasible, and, due to its unique problems of financing, organization and operation... could only be undertaken by a public agency." The agency promised that by consolidating world trade business functions at a single location, "the improvements in efficiency would bring savings in time and money, which would in turn attract greater cargo tonnage." Equally important, the trade center "would provide an appropriate symbol of the Port's pre-eminence."

The Port Authority proposal was very well received. Even in Trenton, Governor Meyner said he thought the plan was "dynamic, forward-thinking [and] sound." The New Jersey governor, however, had other concerns atop his agenda. The state's commuter railroads were tottering perilously close to all-out collapse. Some, like the Hudson Tubes, sputtered along under bankruptcy protection for some time.

Despite the explosion of post-war home-ownership in suburbia and corresponding growth in commutation, trans-Hudson crossings by train and rail-owned ferry had declined by 60 million a year in the decade following the war's end. By the late 1950s, ridership losses were hemorrhaging at a rate of almost 15 percent a year. Most commuters much preferred the convenience and comfort of crossing by car using the Port Authority's bridges and tunnels or by bus to the modern Eighth Avenue bus terminal over that of the dirty, unreliable train services.

To its critics, the Port Authority's auto and bus facilities were directly responsible for the commuter rail system's precipitous decline. A rising chorus in both states was demanding the Port Authority come up with solutions to problems they laid at the agency's doorstep. To the Port Authority, which operates on a wholly self-sufficient financial basis, the numbers made a compelling case to avoid the rail transit business. Commuter rail could never be anything but a deficit operation, Tobin argued stubbornly, and therefore could not be considered by the Port Authority without placing the agency's creditworthiness in grave peril.

Meyner, however, was intent on saving the state's rail system, and his transportation chief, Highway Commissioner Dwight Palmer, developed a creative plan to do so. Under Palmer's plan, the duplicative services of several ailing railroads would be consolidated and state capital utilized to connect the systems together into a seamless network. Also, the rail lines would be allowed to abandon their biggest money-losers, including their aged, maintenance-intensive ferry fleets and waterfront terminals. But to eliminate ferries, Palmer recognized the need for a commuter alternative across the Hudson.

  by Camelback
My father was a city planner in New Jersey during those days and was marginally involved with the Aldene plan. Originally they planned for PATH service to go all the way to Plainfield on the CNJ mainline, giving Union County communters a one seat ride into lower Manhatten. This was opposed for a variety of reasons.

Would you mind listing a couple of the reasons why the path didn't come to fruition?
A one seat ride to NYC would be great, but then again, I am not too fond of the Path trains.

  by RS115
I remember seeing a Star Ledger article from probably 1977 or early 78 discussing "PATH to Plainfield". One of the major arguements advanced against it was that it would essentially parallel and could only exist to the detriment of the CNJ's passenger service.

I thought it would have been replacing the CNJ passenger service because the CNJ was doing poorly financially.

  by Camelback
There were several reasons why it was opposed and never went through. First, it would have required major capital expenditures. Second, communities west of Plainfield opposed it because it would have most likely eliminated passenger rail service into their towns. Third, many towns along the route like Westfield and Cranford opposed it on the grounds that it was an extension of the NYC subway and would have brought down property values.

I don't remember what the exact route into Elizabeth and Plainfield was supposed to be, whether it would have paralleled the corridor into Elizabeth before going onto the former CNJ mainline or if it would have gone over the entire CNJ mainline from Jersey City. Union County has been trying to re-establish passenger rail between Aldene, Broad Street and Elizabeth port ever since the demise of the "scoot."

  by Ken W2KB
The other interesting part about the Plainfield PATH proposal is why Plainfield versus Somerville (the real destination of the CNJ Raritan Clockers) was chosen. The official explanation was that ridership west of Plainfield was insufficient. However, I at the time looked at the statutes that established and empowered the Port of New York Authority as it was then called. It was specified that PONYA was empowered to operate in all territory within a 25 mile radius of Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Measured on a map, I found that Plainfield was about 25 miles from Columbus Circle. Hmmmm. PONYA couldn't legally build beyond there unless both NJ and NY changed their laws, and there was no incentive for NY to do so.

  by Ken W2KB
The other long range driver for PONYA backing the Palmer/Aldene Plan was the desire to eliminate the CNJ Newark Bay draw. Large ships were prevented by the width of the opening from serving PONYA's Ports Elizabeth/Newark.

  by Ken W2KB
>>>or by bus to the modern Eighth Avenue bus terminal over that of the dirty, unreliable train services. <<<

One of the competing proposals to the PATH extension and the Aldene Plan was to pave over two of the four track width of the CNJ mainline for a dedicated busway to replace the trains. The buses would have gone to the Holland Tunnel to get to NY.

  by Ken W2KB
The final 'insult' to the rail advocate community arising from the Aldene Plan surfaces once in a while in Port Authority promotional material.

The PANYNJ often brags of how after it took over the H&M Railroad and modernized into PATH, a tremendous increase in ridership was the result. They give the comparison figures from 1966 to 1968. They fail to mention that the increase was virtually all a result of abandonment of the CNJ and EL ferrys, and virtually none of it from the admittedly better PATH infrastructure occasioned by the PA takeover.
  by GSC
Great stuff. Thanks for sharing all of this.