Save the Dinky, Residents Sue Princeton University and NJ Transit to Stop Dinky Station Move
A citizen group has filed a lawsuit to try to stop Princeton University from moving the Dinky train station further away from town.
The suit was filed in Superior Court Monday, Oct. 3, just a day before the borough governing body is slated to vote on a transit agreement with Princeton Township and Princeton University.
Plaintiffs in the suit include the group Save the Dinky, borough resident Anne Waldron Neumann and husband Walter Neumann, Rodney Fisk and Republican Borough Council Candidate Peter Marks.
In the complaint, filed against the university and New Jersey Transit, Save the Dinky lawyer Bruce Afran argues that the university lacks the authority to move the station any further than it was moved back in the 1980’s.
The group is asking for a permanent injunction barring the university from relocating the Dinky, as well as a “declaratory judgment” that the public has acquired an easement to access and exit the Dinky station at its existing station platform.
Save the Dinky members have argued over the last several months that moving the station further from town would be an inconvenience to commuters in the walkable town and hurt ridership.University officials have countered that the station needs to be moved to make way for their new arts center project and an additional roadway to their parking garage. NJ Transit officials have said they believe the school has the right to move the station under the terms of a contract between the two.
The terminus was moved from the north end to the southern end of the existing platform in 1987 under the terms of a sales contract between the university and NJ Transit. The 1984 sales contract said the university could make a southward move of the terminus “coincident with the location of the minimum reservation of platform space.”
Save the Dinky members argue that the agreement provided for the university to move the“existing terminus” of the Princeton Branch “southward coincident with the location of the minimum reservation of platform space” and the at the minimum reservation of platform space as defined in the 1984 agreement was “170 feet of station platform”.
The group also argues that the agreement makes no reference to or provision for moving or removal of the existing platform as part of any relocation of the terminus.
” In 1987, the university moved the terminus southward to its present location at which there remains a reservation of 170 feet of platform space, as required under the 1984 Agreement,” reads the suit. “Consequently, the permitted relocation of the terminus to a point `coincident with…the minimum reservation of platform space’ as provided for under the 1984 Agreement has been accomplished. No other move or relocation of the terminus is authorized under the 1984 Agreement.”
Save the Dinky members say the 1984 agreement provides that the university must continue to maintain the station facilities, including the passenger station, waiting room, ticket office, bathroom and crew quarters in the existing southern building that is adjacent to the existing station terminus.
“Based on these facts, a justiciable controversy exists as to whether the University may under the 1984 Agreement move the Dinky terminus beyond the existing reservation of 170 feet of platform space,” reads the lawsuit. “Accordingly, Plaintiffs respectfully request a declaratory judgment that the University may not engage in any further relocation of the Princeton Branch terminus and that it be permanently enjoined from doing so.”
In addition to an injunction, the group is also calling for the university to pay for attorney’s fees and the cost of the suit.
The group argues that the use of the platform by the public has been continuous, exclusive, open and visible for at least 30 years for public transportation uses and that the public would be injured if the station were moved.
Note: This story will be updated as more information and comments are available.
Under the Pennsylvania RR, the Princeton Branch was shortened from the original “end of track” behind present-day Witherspoon Hall. Milepost #3 (grey post) remains there. Branch now 1/2 mile shorter than originally built in 1865. (Station moved in 1873, 1890, and to present site in 1920!) No more!!!!!
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