The Monmouth Ocean Middlesex Line (MOM) is a passenger rail project in the US state of New Jersey, proposed by NJ Transit Rail Operations (NJT) to serve the Central New Jersey counties of Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex. The line would originate/terminate around Lakehurst at its southern end. It would junction with either the Northeast Corridor Line or North Jersey Coast Line to provide service north to Newark Penn Station, with potential connecting or continuing service to Hoboken Terminal or New York Penn Station.
The region is fast-growing, densely populated (home to the seventh and eighth most populated municipalities in the state, Lakewood and Toms River), and not served by passenger rail. Bus service is provided on NJ Transit bus routes 130-139 and from Lakewood Bus Terminal on the U.S. Route 9 corridor, which suffers from traffic congestion and safety issues.
NJT completed a draft Major Investment Study distributed in 1996 identifying the need for new rail service for the counties and enhancement of U.S. Route 9 bus service. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) authorized the creation of a draft environmental impact statement in 2002, conducted by SYSTRA, which identified three build alternatives in scoping documents. A draft alternatives analysis report was released in 2010. The baseline (no-build) alternative to expand the Route 9 BBS (bus bypass shoulder lanes) also remains under study. The line is included in the Regional Plan Association's Fourth Regional Plan.
The advancement of project beyond studies (commissioned by NJT or the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority) has lagged due to lack of funding and political wherewithal. Amtrak's projects along the Northeast Corridor, including the New Brunswick-Trenton high-speed upgrade and Gateway Program, will have an effect on future developments of the MOM rail line.
The line would travel north to provide diesel commuter rail service from Lakehurst/Manchester to Farmingdale passing through Toms River (Dover), Jackson, Lakewood, in Ocean and Howell in Monmouth. Stations would be located at Manchester-Lakehurst, Jackson, and Howell-Oak Glen Road. All alternatives include a rail yard at Lakehurst Maxfield Field.
From a junction in Farmingdale three possible alignments are under consideration in Monmouth and Middlesex counties. One alternative would use an existing rail corridor that runs from to Lakehurst along the Jamesburg Branch, the Freehold Secondary, and the Southern Secondary (Southern Branch) and would join the Northeast Corridor Line at Monmouth Junction. Another would use an existing rail corridor from Lakehurst along the Southern Secondary and join the North Jersey Coast Line at Red Bank station. Another would use the abandoned Freehold Branch, Freehold Secondary, and the Southern Secondary from Matawan and join the North Jersey Coast at Aberdeen-Matawan station.
Service would continue north to Newark Penn Station (with connecting or continuing service to Hoboken Terminal or New York Penn Station). The following candidate stations were identified in 2005:
|Matawan alignment||Red Bank alignment||Monmouth Jct alignment|
The project would make use of the rights-of-way (ROW) of former branches of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ), some originally developed by New Jersey Southern Railroad, including CNJ's Blue Comet route to Atlantic City. The ROWs of the Southern Secondary (CNJ), largely owned by New Jersey Transit (NJT), and the Freehold Secondary (PRR) are partially in use for freight service by Conrail's (CRCX) North Jersey Shared Assets Operations (CSAO).
The property for the inland sections of the Henry Hudson Trail is currently railbanked by NJT, which leases the line for a rail trail to the Monmouth County Park System. The former CNJ ROW is leased through 2020 unlike most rail trails, was never officially abandoned. NJT reserves the right to reinstitute rail service. According to the Sierra Club, should NJT opt to restore service it would be the first instance in U.S history where a rail trail reverted to railway usage.
Monmouth Battlefield State Park is traversed by the ROW used by the PRR's Farmingdale and Squan Village Railroad/Freehold and Jamesburg Agricultural Railroad.
This project involves additional transit planning and the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a new rail service for Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties and, as needed, enhancement of Route 9 bus service.NJ TRANSIT completed a draft Major Investment Study that was distributed in 1996. As a result, conceptual engineering and environmental analysis work for the bus service improvement projects were undertaken and are continuing. Additional options for express bus service for Ocean County will be explored and advanced. If these options require physical improvements of a scale and type requiring inclusion in the rail service DEIS or another environmental document, that work will be progressed.In 2006, the rail alternatives were refined to incorporate direct, one-seat ride, service to New York Penn Station. Ridership, cost and environmental work are being adjusted accordingly. Updating demographics and ridership analyses continued during calendar 2009. Lower- cost versions of the three main build alternatives were analyzed and work progressed on a draft alternatives analysis report in 2010. Moving forward, all the technical planning completed as described previously will be included in a report that will be distributed for the counties to use separately and in discussions with NJ TRANSIT. Work will continue on the project and additional recommendations and/or alternatives will be examined in order to advance the project and to support the counties’ efforts to reach agreement on selecting a Locally Preferred Alternative.The MOM project will move forward once other alternatives for increasing trans-Hudson rail capacity into Midtown Manhattan are now under consideration, e.g. Amtrak’s proposed Gateway Project, mature. Also, the FRA is managing amajor [sic] study of the future of the NEC, which must be used by any MOM rail alternative, called NEC Future that will not be completed for two more years. Consistent with the original intent of the MOM project, NJ TRANSIT is committed to working with all affected stakeholders to identify short and long term transportation solutions that will relieve congestion in one of the fastest growing regions in the State of New Jersey
In 1996, routes in the Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex (MOM) corridor were evaluated for potential feasibility for passenger service. The feasibility study considered eleven possible future alternatives. Nine of the alternatives were build alternatives for commuter rail service to New York Pennsylvania Station, on three different alignments utilizing either the North Jersey Coast Line (NJCL) or Northeast Corridor (NEC), and routing to New York Pennsylvania Station26.In 2001, NJ TRANSIT initiated a DEIS for the development of a rail option using State and Federal funds. The DEIS is examining three alignments: Lakehurst to Monmouth Junction, Lakehurst to Red Bank and Lakehurst to Matawan. In 2006, the alternatives were refined to incorporate direct, one-seat ride, service to New York Penn Station. Ridership, cost and environmental work were adjusted accordingly. Updating demographics and ridership analyses continued during calendar 2009. Lower-cost versions of the three main build alternatives were analyzed and a draft alternatives analysis report was completed in 2010.