By Ron Marsico, Director of Media Relations
Harrison, the one-time New Jersey industrial town in a state of transformation hard by the banks of the Passaic River, yesterday celebrated the opening of its gleaming new steel and glass PATH rail station for the 21st century.
Where abandoned brick warehouses symbolizing the passing of the town’s 1950s and 1960s heyday once stood, there is now the Red Bull soccer stadium flanked by townhouses, condos and sleek shops, sprouting like spring floral shoots in a town revamped for economic growth.
Amid Harrison’s rebirth is the newly opened first section of the $256-million Port Authority PATH station, a dream of the town’s late Mayor Raymond McDonough, who envisioned a 21st century station to replace the deteriorating structure that opened smack in the middle of the Depression in 1936. McDonough died in office in 2014, but his widow, Constance, unveil a plaque in his honor outside the facility.
To mark the opening, Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole, Executive Director Rick Cotton, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8th Dist.), Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and current Harrison Mayor James Fife, joined with PATH General Manager/Director Michael Marino and PATH Deputy Director Clarelle DeGraffe and other dignitaries. Following tribute speeches, they clipped a blue ribbon to officially open the new facility.
“He had a vision for this place called Harrison, which not a lot of us really shared,’’ said O’Toole of McDonough, who served 20 years as the town’s mayor. “He was a pioneer. He understood. He had the vision.”
Yesterday’s station opening along the westbound side of the PATH tracks completes the first of a four-phase redevelopment, which will bring a similar glass and steel station to the eastbound side by mid-2019 and then a renovation of two existing nearby station buildings. Use of the Harrison station has soared in recent years, jumping 25 percent since 2012 with nearly 2.6 million riders in 2017.
The airy, light-filled station with high ceilings includes weather-protected entrances/exits, elevators, escalators and widened stairs. Other amenities include PATH’s first “countdown clocks” that tell passengers when the next trains will arrive, as well as extended platforms to accommodate 10-car trains on the Newark-WTC line in the future.
Harrison Mayor Fife called the new PATH station “the diamond stone’’ that will anchor the continuing redevelopment of Harrison.
Cotton praised community officials for supporting the agency’s efforts on the project.
“We are dedicated to upgrading the legacy facilities to improving the customer experience, and to doing all we can to modernize and move our transportation systems up the curve,’’ he said. “You can’t do a project unless the local community supports it.”
Lt. Gov. Oliver, who fondly recalled trips to the hardscrabble town when her mother worked for RCA in Harrison in the 1970s, expressed wonder at the Harrison of the 2010s.
“I am amazed at the transformation of Harrison, New Jersey,’’ said Oliver, calling the new station a cornerstone of that progress. “Economic development is going to come with that. Business expansion is going to come with that.”
O’Toole assessed the woefully outdated and crumbling old station succinctly.
“It is not fit for mankind,’’ he said, drawing laughs and quickly turning his attention to the brand-new station behind him on the speaker’s podium. “This is what Harrison deserves.’’