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Several Democratic state senators reiterated their support for the 23-cent gas tax increase Tuesday with the hope that funding might finally become available to extend the light rail into eastern Bergen County. They also urged the public to vote in favor...

N.J. senators hope gas tax increase will fund Bergen light rail extension

Several Democratic state senators reiterated their support for the 23-cent gas tax increase Tuesday with the hope that funding might finally become available to extend the light rail into eastern Bergen County. They also urged the public to vote in favor...

N.J. senators hope gas tax increase will fund Bergen light rail extension

Several Democratic state senators reiterated their support for the 23-cent gas tax increase Tuesday with the hope that funding might finally become available to extend the light rail into eastern Bergen County.

They also urged the public to vote in favor of Public Question 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot, which would dedicate all gas tax funds exclusively to the Transportation Trust Fund. The taxes themselves grow to 37.5 cents a gallon on Nov. 1.

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"Members of both parties for many years have kicked this can down the road," said Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, joined Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, and Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Fair Lawn to promote the transportation plan at a news conference in the Bergen County Administration Building.

The lawmakers all voted to raise the gasoline tax as part of a deal with Governor Christie to fund transportation projects, a plan that included a repeal of the estate tax and increases in tax credits for the working poor and veterans.

Though no plans have yet been put in place regarding the light rail extension, the senators said they were optimistic that the money generated by the gas tax increase could be used to fund the project, estimated by NJ Transit to cost $800 to $900 million.

"We made a commitment to this a while ago," Sweeney said. "The commitment we made is going to happen."

A proposed extension of the light rail, which connects with PATH trains that run into Manhattan, would extend due north from North Bergen into Ridgefield, Palisades Park and Leonia and have three stops in Englewood including the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.

However, the project is a long way from groundbreaking. A preliminary environmental impact study was begun by NJ Transit but has not been released, and would be subject to a public hearing when it is unveiled. Then, a final environmental review and an engineering plan must be drawn up.

Once the engineering plan is done, the project can be submitted for consideration for federal transit funding, Sweeney said, which may alleviate some of the cost.

Transportation expert Martin Robins said the extension would stand a good chance of winning federal funding.

"This is not an inexpensive project," Robins said.

Email: seasly@northjersey.com

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