Camden’s transportation hub to get $250M overhaul

Officials feel upgrades will help Walter Rand Transportation Center serve as economic driver for city, South Jersey

Calling Camden a city on the rise that is deserving of a modern transportation hub, Gov. Phil Murphy and a host of elected officials announced Wednesday plans for a $250 million overhaul of the Walter Rand Transportation Center.

The WRTC Improvement Project will seek to upgrade and enlarge the existing facility to accommodate the development renaissance currently underway in the city of Camden, Murphy said.

More than that, officials said the center will provide a viable transit system, which they feel is key to sustainable job growth for South Jersey. They see the WRTC as an economic driver for Camden and all of South Jersey.

“In spite of the pandemic’s challenges, Camden is a city still on the rise,” Murphy said. “Today, we are proud to announce a more than $250 million overhaul of the Walter Rand Transportation Center, which will benefit the people of Camden for decades to come. Any modern city needs a modern transportation hub, and, with this investment, we are sending a clear signal that Camden’s best days are ahead.”

Camden Mayor Frank Moran said the upgrade will have huge impact.

“Camden is in the midst of an unparalleled transformation,” he said. “The redevelopment of the Walter Rand Transportation Center will leverage billions of dollars invested in Camden and will be a key component in the future revitalization of the city and this region.”

New Jersey Transit plans to issue a Request for Proposals in the coming weeks to obtain proposals from qualified professional firms to conduct conceptual design, preliminary engineering, final design engineering and construction assistance. The initial design phase, once commenced, is expected to take about nine months to complete.

It is currently contemplated that the project will be constructed on the existing site in Camden. With the emergence of a burgeoning educational and health care corridor in the downtown area and surrounding vicinity, a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of the nearby waterfront is being proposed to the west of downtown and the headquarters for both the Campbell Soup Co. and Subaru of America to the east.

The new WRTC building will provide accommodations for future transit developments and the potential for new retail, office, housing and hospitality opportunities utilizing transit-oriented development design standards.

Officials said the new center would:

  • Better accommodate the 26 bus lines that serve the facility;
  • Provide improved intermodal connectivity with the PATCO Speedline subway and the River LINE light rail;
  • Support intercity independent bus services;
  • Provide additional parking, administrative offices, and value capture retail opportunities to the adjacent growing educational and health care corridor.

The center also would provide an opportunity for integration with zero-emissions buses.

Moran said a new and improved facility is desperately needed.

“The Walter Rand Transportation Center is a critical convergence point for multiple transit systems and a gateway into New Jersey,” he said.  “The center is outdated and in severe disrepair. Camden residents and thousands of commuters who use this facility daily have been patiently waiting for a modern, 21st century transit hub.”

NJ Transit recently completed nearly $2.8 million in repairs to the five-story parking deck attached to the WRTC. The improvements made include new electrical, lighting and concrete patching needed to help facilitate future construction at the WRTC.

NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett said the center will serve as an economic engine for all of South Jersey.

“The investments committed today by Gov. Murphy will improve safety, support transit-oriented development in Camden, better accommodate growth throughout Camden County, and provide improved connectivity to Camden’s medical, educational and industrial development areas,” he said. “These investments will also give us an opportunity to integrate the center with battery electric buses, building on our aggressive efforts to transition toward a zero-emissions bus fleet.”

Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the center will by a symbol for the area.

“Providing a clean, comfortable and safe commuting experience for our southern New Jersey customers is NJ Transit’s commitment,” she said. “The Walter Rand Transportation Center Improvement Project will deliver a positive commuting experience to our customers while supporting the continued economic development in Camden.”

Other comments on the announcement:

  • U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1st Dist.): “This major investment in the Walter Rand Transportation Center will create good-paying construction jobs and ensure that South Jersey residents and essential workers will have access to a safe, reliable and modern transit hub to keep our economy moving. It’s an honor to celebrate this announcement for a center that is such a vital link for our communities. I commend Gov. Murphy, Camden County and Camden city for their support and efforts to advance this investment in South Jersey’s economy, and I will continue to fight at the federal level for additional infrastructure funding.”
  • State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford): “A community’s quality of life depends in large part on the quality of its infrastructure and thoroughfares, and on the quality and variety of transit options it makes available. The Walter Rand Transit Center Improvement Project will be a boost to the entire region and bring a long-needed upgrade to this important transportation hub as we move further into the 21st century. It will open the door to an array of opportunities — educational, economic, and otherwise — many of which we may not have even thought about yet.”
  • Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees): “The Walter Rand Transit Center is a crucial artery in South Jersey’s transportation network. With proximity to Rowan University, Cooper University Hospital and the city of Philadelphia, it’s well-positioned to serve a wide array of commuters. These much-needed upgrades will lead to a safer, more reliable and comfortable experience for visitors and help to boost the transit hub’s potential.”
  • Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden), Assemblyman William Spearman (D-Woodbury) and Assemblyman Bill Moen (D-Audubon), in a joint statement: “The Walter Rand Transit Center Improvement Project will do more than just transform the center itself — it will help transform the entire region. Creating a larger, more refined facility that can better accommodate bus and rail lines will allow WRTC to serve as the central transportation hub for South Jersey. Residents deserve a safe, state-of-the-art center they can depend on as they travel to and from important locations. Not only will these improvements benefit commuters, they will benefit all of Camden County by presenting more retail, office, housing and hospitality opportunities in the area. We continue to strive for growth and redevelopment in Camden, and today’s announcement is a huge step forward. We look forward to the ways in which this project will contribute to ongoing efforts to revitalize and advance our community.”
  • Dana Redd, CEO of the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden board of governors and the former mayor of Camden: “Gov. Phil Murphy is the partner Camden needs right now to enhance the quality of life for residents and expand on the progress that’s already been made in the city. He continues to keep his eyes focused on long-term investments that will provide a pathway to a 21st century public transportation system that equates to reliably getting thousands of people to work every day and making the Walter Rand Transportation Center a more vibrant place. This project will improve social determinants for residents and provide better options for public transportation for the region. I cannot thank him enough for his ongoing commitment to our community.”
  • Michael Egenton, executive vice president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and board chairman of the Walter Rand Institute Advisory Board at Rutgers University-Camden: “The Walter Rand Transportation Center is a vital transportation hub that is served by NJ Transit buses, the PATCO Speedline and the Camden-Trenton River Line. This planned improvement of the center will encourage greater use of public transit and promote continued economic development in the region.”