On June 7, a New Jersey Chancery Judge court ruled against Princeton University’s request to throw out Save the Dinky’s lawsuit arguing that the University does not have the right to relocate the station terminus under its 1984 agreement with NJ Transit. Princeton University and NJ Transit claim that NJ Transit gave the University the right to move the stop away from town and off of the historic platform and to rid the land of the public transportation easement. The University argued that the 1984 deal was a private one between the state and the University, and that Dinky passengers had no right to contest that interpretation of the language, even though the property rights in dispute are public property rights. The Judge disagreed and said that train riders are third-party beneficiaries of the contract and have standing to argue about its meaning. For more details see Planet Princeton’s article, Judge Rejects Princeton University’s Request to Throw Out Save the Dinky Lawsuit
On June 24, the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) and the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) jointly filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board to halt the move of the Dinky. Click here to view the petition(pdf). The petition claims that the line is a line of railroad in interstate commerce and that federal regulatory review is required before the station facility is dismantled and the line is partially abandoned. For news accounts, see Planet Princeton and Railway Age. Federal regulatory review would include an evaluation of the environmental impacts and a review of the impacts on historic assets.
Many people do not realize that the Princeton Station has been listed on the state and federal registers of historic places since 1984, and in fact was listed before NJ Transit entered into its 84 sale contract with the University. NJ Transit did not seek state historic sites approval for the contract in 1984. However, last year, NJ Transit, relying on the 84 contract, received an OK from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to abandon the easement protecting the site so that the University can dismantle the historic station and incorporate it into the University campus. Save the Dinky’s appeal from this ruling is now pending in the NJ Superior Court Appellate Division. In Re: Princeton Railroad Station Track Removal Project, Princeton Railroad Station.
In an apparent attempt to shortcircuit the legal process, the New Jersey Transit Board held a special Board meeting on June 25 to authorize its managers to deed public property rights to Princeton University as part of the agreement to facilitate the University’s arts campus expansion. New Jersey Transit has never held a public hearing on the transportation impacts of the planned abandonment of the historic station facility and the relocation of the terminus southward and away from Nassau Street. The June 25 proceeding was a meeting by telephone. Members of the public, including representatives of Save the Dinky, were given the opportunity to comment. Although all commentres objected to the proposed authorization, the Board voted to approve it without any discussion. The University was not present. The public notice for the Tuesday special meeting was given on the Friday before.