The $40 million Pennsauken Transit Center opened Monday morning, linking the NJ Transit's River Line and the Atlantic City Rail Line.
As dignitaries and dozens of those involved with the project cut a red ribbon, trains rolled through Pennsauken picking up riders who now have direct transfers connecting to Trenton, Camden, Atlantic City, and Philadelphia's 30th Street Station.
"I love to go to Atlantic City," said Philip Roberts, of Trenton, who decided to ride the light rail on the first day. Before Monday, Roberts took the River Line from Trenton to Camden, where he caught a bus to the Jersey Shore resort.
The transportation center, off Derousse Avenue and west of River Road, provides direct transfers between trains on the east-west Atlantic City line and the north-south River Line.
Local politicians say the center will improve South Jersey's economy. In Pennsauken, several industries have plans to expand, and a 78-unit residential plan has been approved. They also expect more commuters using the rail to get to a nursing school and cancer center to open in the future in Camden. They hope Atlantic City benefit with more tourists who will have easier access.
"This is going to make this community take off," said state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who grew up in Pennsauken. "Jobs, jobs, jobs. That's what matters."
Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., said plans for the transit center started in 2007, when the economy was strong. By the time of the ground in 2009, the housing bubble had burst, and the economy was in a sharp decline.
In Camden, Burlington, and Camden Counties, 30,000 people lost jobs between 2007 and 2009, Andrews said. Since then, 20,000 people are back to work.
"That's not enough," Andrews said, adding the only way to improve America's economy is to "dig out" with more jobs.
Local politicians said the center would not have been possible without bipartisan participation. They gave credit to Gov. Christie, who supported the project and has placed an emphasis on mass transit.
The Pennsauken station also connects with NJ Transit's bus Route 419, which connects Camden and Burlington.
The station has a 200-foot platform with a 60-foot canopy along the River Line, and two 300-foot-long, high-level platforms have been built on either side of the elevated Atlantic City line tracks, with stairs and elevators connecting the levels.
Parking for 280 vehicles is available in front of the station.
Officials said most of the project was paid for with $36 million from the federal stimulus plan. The River Line, opened in 2004 and makes 21 stops in towns along the Delaware River.
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