Raritan Center, located about 20 km from the terminals of the port of New York and along the I-95 interstate is a major concentration of logistics activities. With 950 hectares, 3,000 tenants and 15,000 people employed it counts among the largest planned freight zone on the North American East Coast. Like several logistics zones in North America, it is a reconversion of former military land (ammunition depot) that was used from the First World War until it was sold to private interests in 1964. It now belongs to Federal Business Centers and Summit Associates.
The initial goal of the promoters was to develop light manufacturing activities, but the advantages of the site for freight distribution (such as its adjacency to the most important highway in the United States and its proximity to the Port of New York) rapidly changed the orientation towards freight distribution. The northern part of the site along the I-95 has seen the development of several commercial activities such as hotels, office space, convention centers, restaurants, daycare and personal services. This confers a substantial service support function for the logistic activities, including the workers. Raritan Center is directly adjacent to the I-95 with a direct access ramp, therefore limiting local circulation impacts. Additionally, a college campus is adjacent to the site. Therefore, the cluster can be considered as a full fledged freight village.
Rail development represents one of the priorities of the promoters as the site is currently served by bulk rail for specific tenants (plastics, construction materials, flour, etc.). A railway company, Raritan Central Railway, was created in 2001 to promote this initiative. It also serves the nearby privately owned Heller Industrial Park. The main goal is to establish direct short line intermodal services, known as Raritan Express, between the logistics zone and the container terminals of the Bay of Newark (Maher Terminals, APM Terminals and PNCT). One of the main advantages is that the rail infrastructure already exists and what is required is the construction of an intermodal yard, punctual improvements to connect specific rail segments and the purchase (or location) of equipment. The idea is to create a system somewhat similar to the Alameda corridor in Los Angeles / Long Beach, but at a much lower cost since no massive infrastructure investments are required. Raritan Center would become a satellite terminal for the Port of New York.
There is also an abandoned pier which is planned to be upgraded for the use of short sea shipping (RO-RO), a project labeled Port Raritan. If this comes to fruition, Raritan Center would be one of North America’s few trimodal centers.
Raritan Center is therefore a mature freight zone that went through since its inception an ongoing transformation to offer a complete array of services supporting directly and indirectly freight distribution. Even if there is still ample space available for expansion, much of this space is subject to environmental constraints (marshland and littoral areas) making other logistical sites more attractive and less costly. Promoters are aiming at intermodal rail services and proximity to port terminal facilities to attract new activities willing to pay higher rent for such a strategic convenience.