By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

NJ Transit has launched a study involving the Boonton Line, which locals have pegged as a future recreational bike and walking path — the Ice and Iron Greenway — running through Montclair.

Over the weekend, the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition began a petition calling for support for the Essex-Hudson Greenway recreational path.

The transit agency is conducting the study to investigate possible future uses for the now out of service Boonton Line in Essex County, which runs from Montclair to Jersey City, as well as the nearby Orange Branch in Bloomfield and Belleville.

“The goal of the Boonton Line-Orange Branch Transit Utilization Study is to examine the feasibility of utilizing the unused portions of the Boonton Line and Orange Branch rail corridors between Montclair, Belleville and Secaucus to build capacity and resilience into the NJ T network by exploring multiple modes of transportation,” said NJ Transit spokesperson Lisa Torbic. Because NJ Transit is in the early phases of the study, a timeline would be premature, she added.

It is uncertain at this point what effect the study would have, if any, on the proposed Ice and Iron Greenway, also known as the Essex-Hudson Greenway.

The Orange Branch connected Bloomfield to Belleville and Newark, and part of that line is now used for Newark’s light rail system.

The Boonton Line closed passenger service in 2002. Since that time, the line has been owned by Virginia-based freight railroad Norfolk Southern.

The Ice and Iron or Essex-Hudson Greenway, if it were to be built, would run alongside the tracks from Montclair to Jersey City.

The greenway project has earned support from Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. The county executive sent a letter to the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition earlier this month officially declaring the county’s support for the project. The New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition has been working with towns located along the greenway route to get movement on a bike and walkway. The Montclair council passed a resolution in late February declaring support of the project.

Cyndi Steiner, executive director of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition, said that the coalition saw the NJ Transit survey as a good move. “We see this study, with the goal of ‘exploring multiple modes of transportation’ as a positive step forward, in that biking and walking are important transportation modes that could bring substantial benefits to the communities along the corridor. We are confident that the study will highlight these benefits in its assessment of uses for the out-of-service rail line,” she said.

The coalition hopes the study and the petition will give the recreational pathway movement.

“We are calling upon Norfolk Southern to work with the various governing bodies, including but not limited to the towns along the corridor (Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Jersey City, Kearny, Montclair, Newark), the two counties (Essex and Hudson), the NJ Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) to make the greenway a reality,” the petition states.