Work underway to transform abandoned NJ railroad tracks into walking, biking path

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Work on a $20 million project to convert an abandoned stretch of railroad tracks into a bicycle and pedestrian path that will connect Morris and Passaic counties is finally underway, more than a decade after the start of negotiations on the property.

Crews began to clear brush last week and will soon lift up tracks on a 4.8-mile portion of the New York Susquehanna & Western Railway between Pequannock and Wayne. The plan, spearheaded by Morris County officials, will repurpose the railroad into a 10-foot-wide recreational path for hikers and non-motorized vehicles.

The federally funded project is expected to be completed in 2024.

"This project has been eagerly anticipated by many people in the region, particularly in both Morris and Passaic counties, and we’re pleased that work is underway," said Morris County Commissioner Director Tayfun Selen. "This will provide another unique recreational opportunity for our residents, one that connects different greenways while providing bicyclists and hikers easy access to downtown amenities that are a short distance from this path."

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The path begins in Pequannock at River Drive near Route 23. It connects with the township's Aquatic Park and continues south to Mountainview Boulevard in Wayne, near NJ Transit's Mountain View rail station. Eventually, it will tie into the Morris Canal Greenway in Passaic County.

The Morris County Office of Engineering and Transportation is overseeing the project, and the Morris County Park Commission will manage the trail once it is complete. The path will be separate from automobile traffic, though there will be some crossings on streets along the route.

Officials with Morris County and the NYS&W Railway Corp. began negotiating property access and acquisition of the railroad in 2010, according to county documents. In 2018, the county approved a $4.2 million agreement to purchase the railroad right-of-way.

The project's engineering consultant, NV5, presented the final design at a virtual meeting in July 2020, and the purchase became official a month later.

The idea for the path was conceived more than 20 years ago by Pete Standish, a Pequannock resident and avid cyclist. Standish donated money to the township to help fund the project when he died.

This article originally appeared on New Jersey Herald: Abandoned NJ railroad tracks will transform into walking, biking path