On Tuesday, January 30th, this writer appeared on behalf of the Lackawanna Coalition at a hearing sponsored by the Senate Oversight Committee and its Chair, Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen). Other senators on the panel were Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Union). The Coalition and its sister organization, the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) were invited by the Office of Legislative Services to participate. The hearing was held at Bergenfield Town Hall, located about 40 minutes from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The main topic of the session was the plight of commuters who take buses to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, along with the Port Authority's plan to replace that aging facility. Bergen County has more bus commuters than any other county in New Jersey. Senior managers from NJ Transit led off, followed by a representative of the private bus carriers and Chair Peter Palmer of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA). Palmer is also Chair of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition.

NJ-ARP President Len Resto and this writer shared the witness table. Our statement repeated our call for riders to receive a genuine "seat at the table" during future decision-making processes and warned that there may not be enough money available to build the entire Gateway Project; in which case, the interested parties should be prepared to make the best use of available funds by concentrating on building two new tunnels into the existing Penn Station and a new span to replace or augment the aging Portal Bridge. We also questioned the credibility of the Port Authority plan, since it mentioned that costs of projects could change, and the overrun for the new PATH station in downtown Manhattan exceeded the amount that had originally been budgeted for the project. Resto stressed the need for more trans-Hudson capacity and blasted the Port Authority's proposed PATH extension to Newark Airport and the "Disney-style" airport monorail, which the Port Authority plans to replace.

Michael Phelan of the New Jersey Commuters' Action Network appeared separately, and other local elected officials and Bergen County commuters also had their say.

We appreciate the opportunity to participate as an invited organization, and we look forward to presenting our views at future legislative events, on behalf of the riders and communities we represent.

Getting back to the Morris & Essex Line form Bergenfield required a trip to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and a walk from there to Penn Station, to catch the train.