NORTH BRUNSWICK — Capping several years of talks surrounding a transportation hub along Route 1, the process of actually getting something done at the former Johnson & Johnson site has begun.

During a virtual press conference on Thursday, Middlesex County and its partners announced the initiation of the public request-for-proposal for design and engineering of an eventual North Brunswick train station along NJ Transit's Northeast Corridor line.

"Our hope is to be out on the street with that in the next week or so. We will anticipate receiving those probably in the next 45 to 60 days," said James Polos, executive director of the Monmouth County Improvement Authority.

Following a prolonged lull in progress, MCIA was announced last fall as the project manager for the train station — the first time NJ Transit OK'd a county to manage the construction of a crucial infrastructure project.

Polos said this is the first phase in what will be a six-phase project, eventually drawing down a total $50 million from the state's Transportation Trust Fund.

"This is a leap forward in building this critically needed transportation hub on the Northeast Corridor," Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said of the latest milestone. "This station will bring relief to one of the state's busiest rail lines, reduce traffic on Route 1, and attract new revenue to the region."

A clearer timeline of the project, which would provide an additional stop between Jersey Avenue and Princeton Junction, could be released in the next day or two, officials said. The rail station, first conceived about 14 years ago, would join a handful of businesses already developed at the "Main Street North Brunswick" site.

"Beginning the process of designing the station only gets us that much closer to putting a shovel in the ground," said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit Chairwoman Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. "The goal is really to support that transit village with transit."

Breaking ground in 18 months "would be phenomenal," Gutierrez-Scaccetti said during the Zoom call.

"We're going to move as quickly as reasonably possible, but maintaining safety and quality as two key factors in our evaluation," she said.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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