Valley commuters heard good news about the future of the Highland Avenue Station — the waiting hall might finally reopen after decades of disuse.
A $1.2 million restoration project will be paid for with Federal Highway Administration funds, Marty Mayes, Orange’s director of planning, said.
Mayes reported to the city council in September that his office received final approval from the Federal Highway Administration. The funds will be put toward reopening the station and restoring the historic interior.
“People will now be able to go into that train station and hopefully we’ll get a concession inside,” Mayes said.
The last time the station was open was in 1968, according to Anjali Hemphill, senior public information officer at NJTransit. “We believed Highland Avenue Station was closed by predecessor railroad Erie Lackawanna,” Hemphill said.
West Orange resident Charles Coxe, who has been commuting to Manhattan for the past 20 years, told the Four Oranges he never thought the day would come. Despite living six blocks from the Highland Avenue Station, he preferred taking the train from nearby Orange Station largely because of the way its historic waiting hall improved the experience of his commute.
“It puts your mind in a better space, when you’re dealing with the stress of working,” said Coxe, founding partner at Saga Content.
Coxe, who formerly worked as an editor at Maxim and Rolling Stone, said he’s glad the station will be preserved, rather than “torn down for another CVS.” The waiting hall was completed in 1918.
“These stations are one of kind,” Coxe said. “I drive my kids crazy pointing out the history that surrounds us.”
In November, the city council passed a resolution naming Bright View Engineering to oversee the renovations. The city has had an ongoing partnership with the Roseland-based firm that dates back to 2020.
This isn’t the first time commuters have gotten a whiff of hope about the station. In 2016, Assemblyman John McKeon responded to a Change.org petition asking for the station to be reopened. “Though this isn’t going to be a quick fix, the fixes to this station are in the pipeline,” McKeon said in a press release.
With the lack of any progress, Coxe admits he had given in to doubt the project would ever come to pass. “I’ve heard so many stories of the city getting grant money to refurbish this station,” Coxe said. “I’m not holding my breath.”
Councilman Clifford Ross inquired about the status of the restoration at the city council meeting yesterday.
Mayes said the planning department sent the bids to the federal and state governments to be approved.
“Highland Avenue Station is in the final stages,” Mayes said. “I know you heard me say that before, but we really are this time.”
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