Home Asides Great Moments in NJ Transit: It costs what to build a fence?

Great Moments in NJ Transit: It costs what to build a fence?

by Benjamin Kabak

Every now and then — or let’s be honest, rather regularly — stories come out about New Jersey Transit that remind us of just how inept the agency can be. Lately, seemingly everyone has escaped responsibility for leaving rolling stock in an area vulnerable to floods as a giant hurricane came in, and despite a $450 million repair bill, Gov. Chris Christie has yet to fire anyone in charge. But there’s more to New Jersey Transit’s problems than that.

On a smaller scale, even mundane stories are a cause for concern. Take, for instance, New Jersey Transit’s decision, after decades of ignoring the problem, to close up a shortcut. For decades, Manhattan-bound riders walking to the Teterboro station were faced with a tough choice: Walk a mile on Route 46, a dangerous road with no shoulder or sidewalks or cross the tracks, an otherwise illegal maneuver that NJ Transit had tacitly approved. That approval ended recently when the NJ Transit built a fence. Officials cited “safety” as the primary concern which is laughable if you consider the remaining access options. It might be “safer” for New Jersey Transit’s exposure to liability, but it’s not safer for the people walking to the train station.

We could debate the best way to solve this problem for a while. Maybe an underpass would work or an overpass, but for now, New Jersey Transit has gone with a fence. And just how much does this fence cost? According to the NorthJersey.com report, NJT will spend $100,000 to build a fence eight feet high and 300 feet long. One hundred thousand dollars. It blows the mind. According to a fencing cost estimate site, installing 300 linear feet of chain-link fence in Teterboro, New Jersey, should cost a little over $5000. Instead, New Jersey Transit is going to spend twenty times that amount. No wonder it’s impossible to have a rational discussion on expanding the region’s transit network.

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Hoosac February 27, 2013 - 4:02 pm

Three possibilities:
1. They’re stupid.
2. They’re crooked.
3. Further investigation should be done. It might show why the cost of building anything in the New York area starts at a billion dollars and goes ever upward.

Dare we ask how long it’s going to take to put up this fence?

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2013 - 4:08 pm

If an overpass is so valuable to Hasbrouck Heights, Hasbrouck Heights could build it. They could have built it decades ago. Or if it’s so valuable to the employers in Teterboro they could have built it. Or they could have gotten together and built it.

lawhawk February 27, 2013 - 4:23 pm

$100k to build the fence.

Or, they could have used that $100k to put in an actual crossing with lights and bells and gates for pedestrians to safely cross that section.

They chose not to.

I have no idea why it costs $100k to fence off that stretch, but from what I know of the location, it would have cost significantly more to acquire the land necessary to build an overpass – money that the town didn’t have and money that NJT claims not to have.

NJT has used climbproof fencing in other areas – like along the corridor around the Plauderville and Garfield stations to reduce trespasser incidents, and it is more expensive than the usual chain link, but this is so far beyond the cost as to require further explanation from NJT.

Just remember this next time someone raises questions about ARC budgeting. Or any other NJT project on the drawing board. NJT simply can’t control its capital costs.

Jumper February 27, 2013 - 4:44 pm

Better yet, $100K could build a wooden/steel pedestrian bridge over the tracks to the other side

Someone February 27, 2013 - 8:28 pm

With the elevator cost covered in that $100K.

Andre L. March 2, 2013 - 10:01 am

There is no way two elevators on an open area with all their systems will cost just 100K, even if it were build by private companies.

SEAN February 27, 2013 - 4:50 pm

How ofenceive.

Will this fence be gold plated, or will the costs just be inflated like Chris Christie’s ego.

Tell me again how much Christie gave Tripple 5 to complete that monstrosity mall in the Medowlands?

Nyland8 February 27, 2013 - 5:06 pm

I’m not familiar with the transportation rules in New Jersey – but would any new overpass or underpass be required to be ADA compliant? Anybody?

I suspect the intended fence is not merely chain link. Otherwise, on top of the initial costs, they’d be looking at the costs of rebuilding it every week, after the patrons of that station tear through it with simple bolt cutters to remake their shortcut.

Benjamin Kabak February 27, 2013 - 5:10 pm

Here’s a close-up of the new fence. Worth $100,000?

Someone February 27, 2013 - 5:17 pm


Nyland8 February 27, 2013 - 5:25 pm

Unless those chain links are made of Unobtanium, it looks like a “shortcut” waiting to happen.

Is there a pool to guess how long it remains without a hole in it?

Ryan N. March 1, 2013 - 3:06 pm

It’s more serious of a fence than it looks. When I first encountered it, about 10 mins before the last train of the night out of there, I briefly looked for ways to get around it or past it or through it. You can’t get a foothold anywhere, and it’s strong fence material, not standard chain link.

Nyland8 March 1, 2013 - 5:38 pm

Nevertheless … a rather standard pair of bolt cutters could probably go through it without a problem. If it can cut through heavy chains, and the hardened shackle of a Master Lock, it could make short work of those thin wires. It’s not the same as having an 8 foot, spike-topped steel fence.

But it’s beginning to sound to me like there may simply not be enough traffic there to motivate cutting it. How many folks a day actually crossed those tracks. 20 … or 200?

Someone March 1, 2013 - 10:15 pm

Maybe 400, 500.

Someone March 1, 2013 - 10:18 pm

Oops! Sorry.

Someone March 1, 2013 - 10:18 pm

Maybe 400, 500.

The fence is anti-logical in 2 ways: It prevents people from saving time by crossing the tracks, and it wastes a lot of money over a fence rather than hiring conductors for that side of the track.

That’s a very good reason to cut it.

g February 27, 2013 - 5:25 pm

I can’t shake the impression that NJT harbors a passive-aggressive hatred for it’s own ridership.

Mikey February 28, 2013 - 1:14 pm

Never forget that Christie is calling the shots.

Alex C February 28, 2013 - 11:13 pm

He’s a real budget hawk, you know.

Patrick March 1, 2013 - 5:35 pm

The MTA put up a new fence at the Canarsie Yard that looks exactly like the fence pictured. Wonder how much that cost

g February 27, 2013 - 5:10 pm

Is it electrified for increased safety?

Someone February 27, 2013 - 5:16 pm

The other $95000 will probably go to reward the people who built the fence.

Bolwerk February 27, 2013 - 6:20 pm

They could have spent the $100k on armed guards to shoot anyone who crosses the tracks. You know, for safety.

Michael K February 27, 2013 - 6:51 pm

Contrary to common sense, this fence is within the proper cost.

Having done a cost matrix for additional access paths to the Aberdeen-Matawan Train Station, NJ TRANSIT requires, I repeat requires their fences to meet FRA rail-trail standards. As many of you know, the FRA tends to require that everything be overbuilt to the nth degree.

BenW February 28, 2013 - 2:27 pm

What, the the fence needs to be able to withstand a head-on collision with a freight train?

BBnet3000 February 28, 2013 - 7:14 pm

Mandated != Proper

And i thought the FRA weight penalty just applied to trains…

Michael K February 28, 2013 - 11:25 pm

I believe the fence must withstand a collision with a slow moving car, per NJT policy.

Michael K February 28, 2013 - 11:29 pm

Also, the LIRR built a similar fence in Lynbrook (1 Mile long) for $650,000.

Someone March 1, 2013 - 10:19 pm

The LIRR is even more stupid than the NJT is.

Jerrold February 27, 2013 - 6:59 pm

Off-topic, but very much on-topic for this site:


Coming to think of it, maybe it’s not 100% off-topic.
Ben’s piece ended with a mention of the lack of rationality when it comes to New York area transit. One of the most irrational kinds of situations is when the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Here, the right hand is that private company and the left hand is the Transit Authority.

Benjamin Kabak February 27, 2013 - 7:01 pm

More on that piece tomorrow, but it’s not even a left hand/right hand thing. The private company enters into an agreement with the TA to operate that entrance, and the TA can’t get its act together to make sure the open hours align with its own shift hours. Also inept.

Jerrold February 27, 2013 - 8:16 pm

[Sorry, I intended to put this HERE]

I remember a case some years ago when a woman was raped in a subway exit which she had entered through an “iron maiden” from the platform, only to find that the gate blocking the stairway to the street was locked.

Eventually she won an award in a lawsuit.
The judge stated that the victim had been caught in “a deadly trap created by Transit Authority negligence”.

Larry Littlefield February 27, 2013 - 7:27 pm

This shows that Christie is cracking down. The contractors would have charged the MTA $200,000. That would be $5,000 for the fence. And $195,000 for the shortage in the multi-employer pension fund, most of which was created by companies working on private projects.

Scott E February 27, 2013 - 7:43 pm

I’m sure it costs so much because either (a) it costs a ton of money to have specially-trained fence installers work so close to the tracks, or (b) NJT needed to acquire land a safe distance from the tracks in which to install the fence.

Acquiring the abandoned gas station and installing a signaled pedestrian crossing seems like a much more logical approach.

This is a slow, single-track diesel-operated line, if I recall. It’s not like a quiet electric train could sneak up on you.

Corey Best February 28, 2013 - 4:01 am

Its not slow on that section upwards of 50mph , from Hackensack South to Rutherford and 30-50mph North to Rockland…. The line was upgraded in 2005 to allow for bi-directional trains every 30mins , although this was never completely finished due to NIMBYS although they promised to do the rest by 2017….along with Speed upgrades north of Hackensack.

Michael K February 28, 2013 - 11:32 pm

While the trains are pretty fast on that line (due to modern signal and equipment and virtually no rail traffic), nearly all trains are stopping the station and are travelling at a very slow speed except for the Metro North express trains and the few trains that go express to/from New Bridge Landing (my station)

Ryan N. March 1, 2013 - 3:05 pm

Actually, lots of trains don’t make that stop. However, you can still see a train approaching for several minutes in either direction.

Paulie3jobs March 1, 2013 - 3:25 pm

Slightly OT. I’d love to see NJT combine the Emerson and Oradell (mine) stations. Close both, which would improve traffic flow, especially at Emerson. Buy one of the properties in the 600-800 block of Kinderkamack Road, build the station and parking, use the existing building for NJT offices. maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=800+Kinderkamack+Road,+Oradell,+NJ&aq=&sll=40.933861,-74.032303&sspn=0.00693,0.016512&vpsrc=0&t=h&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=800+Kinderkamack+Rd,+Oradell,+Bergen,+New+Jersey+07649&z=17. I apologize if the link doesn’t work. Take a look.

Someone March 2, 2013 - 9:13 am

The link works now.Take a look.

Corey Best March 2, 2013 - 8:06 pm

Emerson plans on TOD next to the station , and Oradell has the same plans , closing stations to improve traffic flow is stupid and reeks of being anti-Transit.

Jerrold February 27, 2013 - 8:11 pm

I remember a case some years ago when a woman was raped in a subway exit which she had entered through an “iron maiden” from the platform, only to find that the gate blocking the stairway to the street was locked.

Eventually she won an award in a lawsuit.
The judge stated that the victim had been caught in “a deadly trap created by Transit Authority negligence”.

lawhawk February 27, 2013 - 9:16 pm

Picking up on my comments above, <a href="http://www.northjersey.com/new.....&quot; it cost $83k to install a warning control system in Plauderville. That maintains access and at lower cost (minus upkeep).

And yet, an earlier safety plan to upgrade fencing and signage to reduce injury/fatalities in and near stations cost about $90k per station (33 stations upgraded at $3 million in 2006-7).

Someone February 27, 2013 - 9:19 pm

Was that supposed to signify anything?

SubwayNut February 27, 2013 - 9:27 pm

Teterboro is one of the stops on the Pascack Valley Line that seems like New York City’s railway that has minimally changed since it opened in the late 1800s, full of old station houses and only low-level concrete platforms. There tons of level-crossings and the line just north of Teterboro goes right down the median of two streets in Hackensack without any fences. It’s definately home to plenty of trespassers and would require tons of unnecessary fencing to cut down on them. The line is a slow, entirely single tracked diesel line that saw service only during peak direction rush hours until passing sidings were built, and off peak, reverse direction and weekend service was finally added in 2008 (for the first time in 60 years). When I visited Teterboro for my website I biked there and entered the legal way along the awful sidewalk-less roads crowded with traffic (that weren’t too much fun on a bike, I couldn’t imagine walking there) after spending some time on Google earth trying to figure out if there was a legal pedestrian crossing and assumed there wasn’t to enter from the otherside.

Corey Best February 28, 2013 - 4:10 am

It is not a slow line , its pretty decent for a “branch”….there are 2 sidings one in Teterboro just south of the station and one in Hackensack , the other 2 are onhold due to NIMBYs but one would go in Oradell and the other in Park Ridge to allow for all day Bi-Directional service. The Hackensack Passing siding will be extended up past New Bridge landing to service that new TOD and allow for Hackensack to get up to 2TPH without messing with rest of the line. The Hackensack Section is receiving a safety upgrades , there working the plans out , but it involves hedges and planters to prevent trespassers which is a huge problem. But Teterboro is mostly an Industrial stop which is barely used only 40-50 a day use the stop compared to Wood-Ridge or Hackensack which see at least 300-600 people a day…the station has been declining for years this may be the final below. There is no weekend or Holiday service…. A decent amount of trains bypass it offpeak…its starting to turn into the Great Notch station which peaked then crashed and was closed.

Brmnyc1 February 28, 2013 - 12:17 am

It shall be interesting to monitor the ridership levels at this particular station to see what impact this fence has in one year or two. If it forces people to walk a long way on a dangerous stretch of highway, I can’t imagine any other result than people seeking other ways to commute, such as driving themselves.
Way to go NJTransit!

Corey Best February 28, 2013 - 3:54 am

The Station isn’t all that used and might be closed sometime in the near future. There were numerous near misses at this and other stations with crosses nearby so NJT is fencing all low and high platformed stations. The Town is in charge of building or Maintaining the crossing its not NJT….the town could have worked with NJT but choose to ignore NJT and pay this game that all towns in NJ do from time to time. The Town could high level platform the station like Hackensack and River Edge are doing….but its chosen to stay quiet maybe because there broke or internal fighting… And my town (Westwood) is next on the Fencing list along with Woodcliff lake , Montvale & Pearl River. It takes about 2 days for them to do the fencing….the first day is clearing and second day is installing all while the trains remain unaffected….

Chris February 28, 2013 - 1:00 pm

The NorthJersey.com article mentions this regarding a second platform:

Conductors for Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit group of trainmen, said standard safety protocols don’t usually allow passenger doors to open for simultaneous boarding on two sides.

But this happens all the time on Metro-North trains (I know at least at Stamford).

Walter February 28, 2013 - 8:15 pm

Stamford has a high-level platforms, while Teterboro is low-level and required the traps to be open. I can see why they don’t want two doors across from each other opened at a low-level stop (perhaps worried about people crowding in the vestibule and falling down the stairs), but there’s no reason they can’t stagger the open doors at the platform.

Metro-North does not open both sides at any low-level platform.

Someone February 28, 2013 - 2:18 pm

Uh, Governor Christie, an 8′ tall, 300′ wide fence that costs $100K? We refuse to believe it. Unless it was some moron at NJT who’d rather waste lots of money (and commuters’ time) on a fence than let people climb over the tracks.

wombat April 18, 2013 - 1:15 am

NJ Transit is a joke and a rippoff.
I just made some calculations comparing CalTrain in California and NJ Transit per mile.

NJ Transit is fully twice as expensive per mile to travel as CalTrain.
.24 cents/ mile versus .12

Anybody who says NJ Transit is a bargain is smoking Crack.
The New Jersey Taxpayer and transit ripper is ripped off daily by the Mob and the Unions.
We need a New Jersey Tea Party to liberate the state!


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