August 28, 2013

Citizen Group Still Fighting Dinky Move

The temporary Dinky station is up and running, and crews are set to begin taking up portions of the train tracks to make way for construction of Princeton University’s arts and transit complex. But the citizen group Save the Dinky Inc. is not letting up on its efforts to persuade the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to halt the track removal.

An attorney for Save the Dinky Inc. sent a letter Tuesday to DEP Commissioner Robert Martin in response to submissions by the University, NJ Transit, and the historic sites office of the DEP objecting to a stay that Save the Dinky had requested last week.

The objections were made “… on the grounds that the application comes too late, that there is no irreparable harm, and that Appellant’s to the DEP approval of NJ Transit’s Track Removal Project are without merit,” the letter from attorney Virginia Kerr reads. “Respondents are incorrect on all points.”

The letter asks the DEP to “immediately grant Appellants’ request for an immediate stay of the May 11 ruling [allowing NJ Transit to abandon public rights of the historic site] with instructions to NJ Transit to cease from any further work to remove track and destroy the right of way that supports the transportation function of the Princeton Railroad Station.”

Save the Dinky Inc. is currently involved in different lawsuits to try and halt the move of the station. Asked on Monday what would happen should any of those lawsuits result in orders to cease construction, Mayor Liz Lempert said, “The University knows they are proceeding at their own risk.”

For the next year at least, commuters who ride the Dinky shuttle 2.7 miles to and from Princeton Junction station will be picking up the train 1,200 feet away from the old station, which the University plans to turn into a restaurant and cafe.

Monday was the first day for the temporary terminus. Reviews were mixed.

“I think we had a very good first day,” said Kristin Appelget, who is Princeton University’s Director of Regional and Community Affairs, on Tuesday. “I was on site, and then I was out there again this morning. Things were even better and people were starting to get into their new habits.”

Sheldon Sturges, founder of the organization Princeton Future, said he found traffic to be backed up near the station when he drove over to take a look. “It was a disaster,” he said. “It’s a good thing school hadn’t started yet because it really would have been a bigger mess.”

The temporary train station will be dismantled once a new station, designed by architect Steven Holl, is built about halfway between the old station and the temporary structure. Also to be constructed is a new building for the Wawa market, which is currently on the corner of University Place and Alexander Street.

While the temporary station is in use, free shuttle bus service is being offered by the University to meet every train that stops at Princeton Junction. To board the buses, passengers will need NJ Transit tickets that show Princeton as either their destination or origin. Municipal and NJ Transit buses are also operating.