NJ Transit has begun a $190 million renovation and modernization of its transportation hub in New Jersey’s largest city, Newark.

About 50,000 riders on rail, buses, PATH and light-rail systems passed each weekday through the gloomy spaces of Newark Penn Station before the pandemic, making it among the region’s busiest stations.

Gov. Phil Murphy, at a news conference Tuesday outside the station, said the renovations would restore the almost 90-year-old building to its former grandeur.

The state has committed $30 million toward the first phase of improvements, which are mostly cosmetic and include restoring wooden benches in the waiting area, updating bathrooms and lighting as well as deep cleaning the station’s limestone exterior.

An additional $160 million of upgrades, which are expected to be completed over the next five years, include adding and refurbishing stairs and elevators as well as improving signs.

Newark is the westernmost starting point for the $30 billion Gateway Program to double rail capacity between New Jersey and New York City.

The centerpiece of the program, a $13 billion project to dig a rail tunnel under the Hudson River, has stalled under the Trump Administration pending federal approval.

Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, said the Democratic President-elect

Joe Biden

indicated his support for the program during a phone call Saturday night between the two men. “He’s been a big believer in it from day one,” Mr. Murphy said.

Gateway’s leaders intend to build the tunnel before they close the existing two-tube tunnel for extensive repairs. The tunnel, which was inundated with water during superstorm Sandy, carries about 200,000 weekday riders, most of them NJ Transit customers, on the nation’s busiest rail line linking Washington, D.C. and Boston.

Meanwhile, NJ Transit is preparing to receive final agreement from the federal government for an $800 million grant toward a $1.9 billion project to build a new rail bridge over the Hackensack River. That project would mark the beginning of the first major Gateway construction.

Traveling on trains and buses means potential exposure to the coronavirus, so cities are racing to make their public transit systems safe. WSJ explores how things like sanitizing robots, working from home and expanded bike lanes are changing our commutes. Video/Illustration: Jaden Urbi and Zoë Soriano

Write to Paul Berger at [email protected]

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Appeared in the December 9, 2020, print edition as ‘N.J. Starts $190 Million Penn Station Makeover.’

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