By Jeff Bahr
A ribbon-cutting event celebrating the completion of a vital link in the East Coast Greenway project – a proposed 2,900-mile green route linking cities along the eastern seaboard – was held at Jersey City’s Lincoln Park on June 22.
A sizable number of bicyclists, route supporters and politicians turned out to champion the project and celebrate yet another urban barrier in the planned route that’s been overcome by enthusiasm, hard work and tenacity. Speeches of gratitude were commonplace, and rightfully so. The project came about only through the dedication and hard work of many, and this was their day to rejoice.
“We used to say (to bicyclists and walkers looking to get from Newark to Jersey City) at Newark Penn Station, ‘Just get on the train.’ It wasn’t safe enough,” said Dennis Markatos- Soriano, Executive Director of the East Coast Greenway Alliance. “We couldn’t recommend people on their bikes or walking go through the sections because it was set up for roads, which is logical. But we wanted to make sure that at least one good route for bikers and walkers went through the area.”
The Greenway, designed to keep bicyclists and walkers safe as they move from city to city, has overcome a great many obstacles to reach its current point. One such impediment existed in the urbanized patchwork of roads lying between Newark and Jersey City – a heavily traveled hazardous stretch that challenged route planners from the very start.
The new route comes in the form of a widened sidewalk that flanks Truck Route 1&9 and passes under a “spaghetti network of bridges,” said Markatos-Soriano.
“It provides a nice route for people. 2,900 miles is our final goal. 800 miles are (currently) on greenways that we love, that we feel are accessible to everyone from children to grandparents. It’s for everybody. We want all 2900 miles to be like that, so we’re working toward that goal.”
Such an achievement will require bike lanes, improved sidewalks, and other components necessary to keep nonmotorized route users apart and away from car traffic. It will be accomplished in such a way that “the cars and the bikes and the walkers aren’t competing, but each one has a nice route to get through the area,” explained Markatos-Soriano.
Kearny Mayor Al Santos was “extremely supportive” of the project, said Markatos-Soriano. “We had a nice meeting last year and he signed some support letters. He’s been key in this project. We really appreciate all of the Kearny support for the project.”
Mid-Atlantic Coordinator of the East Coast Greenway, Andy Hamilton, laid out the new route in detail. According to Hamilton, the link begins in Jersey City on the north side of Truck Route 1&9 and stretches to Hackensack Ave., Kearny, where it continues on the southern sidewalk following the Truck Route ramp to Doremus Ave. From there, it traces the outer edge of the Doremus Ave. cloverleaf, finally ending at Raymond Blvd. in Newark.
Just before the ribbon was cut by Jersey City Mayor, Jeramiah Healy, Markatos- Soriano talked about the humble roots from whence the project sprang, and the tangible results that now stand as proof positive of where it’s ultimately headed.
“This gets us so much closer to our dream of a safe and accessible route for bicycles, for walking, for everyone from Maine to Florida. Over the last twenty years our project has grown from a vision to 800 miles on the ground between Maine and Florida. And no section was more important than this section right here. This step forward unleashes an opportunity for health and economic well-being for residents and long-distance tourists alike.”