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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Raritan Valley comedy of errors not a complete loss

Plainfield blogerati were taken in by the news item last week ( "Plainfield mayor to discuss redevelopment") that Mayor Robinson-Briggs was to present on Plainfield's transit-oriented development plans at a meeting of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition on April 23.

Bernice and Dan wrote anticipatory posts (Bernice:
"Mayor, Wenson Maier to Speak on Transit Villages", Dan: "Mayor putting PT out of business?").

On Monday morning we three set off like the NiƱa, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, if not in search of parts unknown, at least in hopes of fabled treasure -- NEWS about Plainfield's rosy new transit-oriented future.

Garbled last-minute communications about whether or not there was going to be a meeting turned it into something of a comedy of errors. Would anyone show? Who would show? Who would be in charge? Would there be a program?

As it turns out, the Mayor was not there (we don't know if she ever knew she was supposed to be, as the papers had reported). Jacques Howard, the city's economic development point person, did an admirable job of giving attendees an overview of current ideas about development focused around the city's rail transit hubs.

But the news is there was no NEWS -- at least on the development front.

Dan enjoyed chatting with old acquaintances from the Raritan Valley initiative -- Freeholder Peter Palmer from Somerset County, Sally Morris of NJT, and Harry McNally, engineer, transportation buff and former Plainfield resident. And I got to meet and find out more about Councilman Storch's
neighbor, acquaintance and primary election challenger, Tony Rucker. Councilors Cory Storch and Rashid Burney were also in attendance.

Of most interest to me was the rather technical discussion of the problems holding up getting dual-engine locomotives on the Raritan Valley Line. It involves the differences between 3rd-rail and catenary electric engines and how New Jersey cannot use the type of engines used by the LIRR and MetroNorth in New York State. And why that is likely to cost New Jersey a bundle.

It would be nice if Plainfield invited the RVRC to hold an occasional meeting here in town as the group has done in the past. The issues the coalition struggles with are important for the long-range vitality of the towns along the Raritan Valley Line. It would be good for the Queen City to make itself a choice pearl in that strand.

-- Dan Damon

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