Save the Dinky is rushing against time to get court rulings on the legality of New Jersey Transit’s plans to abandon Princeton’s historic in-town operating station. On August 8, along with the NJ Association of Railroad Passengers, SDKY appealed a June 25 action of NJ Transit’s Board authorizing a sale of the easement protecting the station, see Star Ledger on Rail Group Appeal. On August 16, SDKY applied for an emergency order from the Department of Environmental Protection asking it to suspend the go-ahead it gave to NJ Transit to abandon the station–which was on the NJ Register of Historic Places when NJ Transit sold it to the University in 1984. –to allow the University to remove the canopy and railroad infrastructure and build on the right of way to convert the freight building to a restaurant. See stories in Town Topics, Planet Princeton , Princeton Packet, Trenton Times, Princeton Patch.
The University claims that the 1984 sale gave it the right to end the station’s operating function by moving the terminus. In 2010, it asked NJ Transit to move it 460′ southward next to a parking garage to build a road that will make it easier for University employees to reach the garage from Alexander. NJ said the ’84 agreement obligated it to agree to this. SDKY’s lawsuit challenging this interpretation is pending before a Chancery Judge, but this suit and the Appellate Division suit won’t be decided until sometime in the fall. There is still no word from the STB on the petition filed in June by the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
In the meantime, the University is rushing to create facts on the ground that will destroy the track bed and right of way to the station before the courts rule. On August 26, service is slated to open at a temporary station located 1210 feet south that will operate for over a year. After that, it is a matter of time before the rails are removed and the embankment supporting the right of way is leveled.
The temporary plan will cause massive inconvenience to commuters who rely on pedestrian access because there will be no practical pedestrian access. University official Bob Durkee told the Princeton Packet that the loss is justified by ”a new station, with added amenities, a new Wawa, new restaurants in the area and an arts complex designed by one of the world’s leading architects.”
The University plans to run a shuttle bus to the temporary station to make up for the loss of easy access. When the proposed new station opens, bus service will be the new normal for Princeton, and the community can look forward to a renewal of the plan — overwhelmingly opposed a few years ago — to replace the Dinky with a bus rapid transit system. The MOU Task Force studying options for service to Nassau Street–if the Dinky is moved–is already preparing to recommend a bus system as the best choice.