Historic Brick Church NJ Transit station gets $83.3M from feds to add modern touches

New Jersey Transit was awarded an $83.3 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to transform the historic Brick Church station in East Orange into a modern, fully accessible station that preserves historic features and improves the customer experience.

The project will improve the station’s accessibility in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by installing high-level platforms and elevators, new security cameras and other safety measures. The work also includes restoring historic features in line with the station’s status on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places.

The grant will only add to other improvements, which already are underway thanks to state-funded initiatives, include upgrading signage and communication systems, new historic replica lights, repairing the historic benches and terrazzo floor, installing an art installation on windows, converting the former baggage room to leasable commercial office space, as well as stairwell, restroom and security upgrades.

The funds are part of the FTA’s All Stations Accessibility Program, which makes competitive funding available to assist in the financing of capital projects. The FTA awarded a total of $343 million in ASAP grants for 2024 to eight transit agencies in eight states, of which NJ Transit received the second-highest award.

Gov. Phil Murphy obviously was thrilled.

“This is a win-win for the East Orange community and the many commuters who pass through daily in route to one of the busiest corridors in the nation,” Murphy said. “Thanks to the FTA’s generosity, coupled with ongoing state investments, Brick Church Station is undergoing a transformation that will restore its historical integrity while modernizing the facility as a whole so that it is ultimately accessible by all.”

U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez (D-8th Dist.) said investing in railway infrastructure is essential, as it ensures that residents can easily access safe and inclusive public transportation.

“The $83.3 million grant awarded to NJ Transit will modernize the Brick Church station and make our transit systems accessible to everyone,” he said. “By prioritizing inclusivity and historical preservation, we’re not just upgrading our infrastructure, we’re affirming our commitment to building a transit system that is equitable for all.”

Acting FTA Administrator Veronica Vanterpool said there was a reason this presentation was the second stop for the FTA. New Jersey, she said, gets it.

“When we see transit-oriented development around viable, robust transit stations, that’s a big deal,” she said.

State Sen. Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange) was thrilled. She said the day was a long time coming — and noted the impact the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. had in getting it done.

“For the past six years, with the goal of taking a proactive approach to our aging infrastructure, I have tirelessly advocated for dollars to improve our stations in disrepair,” she said. “This advocacy has been in collaboration with state and federal agencies.

“Special mention must go to the constant collaboration my friend and partner in government, the late Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr., and I had to secure additional funding on top of the state’s contribution. The congressman was a giant for the people, and I am honored to have worked with him on this project, and many others.”

Acting state Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit board Chair Fran O’Connor was equally pleased.

“This generous grant makes it possible for NJ Transit to take another step toward achieving its vision to meet the travel needs of every customer,” he said. “New Jerseyans deserve safe, reliable and accessible public transit, and this project provides that to our customers.”

Rail service through East Orange first began in 1836 as the Morris and Essex Railroad. Matthias Ogden Halsted, a local lawyer who used the railroad to commute, provided a station for commuters.

A new depot was built in 1880 and used until the current station opened on Dec. 18, 1921, after the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroad elevated the tracks. The station is named for the nearby Temple of Unified Christians Brick Church, which was designed with brick architecture.

The brick headhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.