County exec pushes for more information from American Dream developer and NJ Transit

Polite but visibly frustrated, Bergen County Executive James Tedesco showed up to testify at NJ Transit’s final public hearing on the agency’s expanded bus routes to the American Dream megamall in the Meadowlands.

“Simple request here, tonight,” said Tedesco. “Work with the County of Bergen on the Hackensack to the Meadowlands bus route.”

Last month, the 772 bus added extended evening and new weekend hours from Hackensack to better serve American Dream, but at a local cost, Tedesco complained.

“Those buses queue throughout the city of Hackensack, which is not fair to the residents,” he said. “I want myself and my office to be updated on the increased ridership numbers for these routes on a routine basis from NJ Transit.”

Tedesco said he deliberately read requests for information into the public record because he’s been getting stonewalled by mall developer Triple Five, NJ Transit, the Governor’s Office and state police on questions about traffic management.

“It’s been some time that we’ve continued to raise some concerns and ask for a meeting with them, to discuss how we can address these issues,” he said.

The executive’s pushing for data about overall traffic volume that the new mall could generate. It’s projected to eventually draw 40 million annual visitors when the complex is fully open next spring, particularly on days when more than 75,000 football fans inundate MetLife stadium for Jets and Giants games. The public safety response remains a concern.

“If there’s massive congestion and massive traffic jams, how does that impact the first responder’s ability to provide that. So it all plays into what’s going to happen,” Tedesco said.

Tedesco’s request drew a response from NJ Transit: “We’ve coordinated with the Bergen County Administration throughout the process with regard to NJ TRANSIT’s transportation plan to American Dream. We’ll continue to communicate with our partners in the County Executive’s office to keep them informed of any changes as we get closer to the opening date.”

Meanwhile, critics testified NJ Transit’s proposed bus routes serving American Dream fall far short of what’s required. They posit that its $9 express bus service from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, scheduled to run every half-hour starting Oct. 25, will be too infrequent and too costly for mall staffers and that the expanded local bus routes aren’t fast enough.

The existing lines are not laid out for a rapid service to American Dream or any other point,” said PTSI Transportation founder Michael Weinman. “They’re local routes that perhaps used to be street car lines, that meandered all over and served the localities very well, but as extenders to American Dream, they don’t do a very good job.”

Weinman recommended several new rapid transit bus routes that would connect the mall to key travel points like Newark Penn Station and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.

Monday night’s public hearing is the last one for NJ Transit on transportation to the megamall. American Dream opens Oct. 25, and a final decision on the bus routes will made in December.