While former MTA chairman Joe Lhota laughed off the idea of extending the 7 train to NJ as an expensive idea that wouldn't happen in "anybody's lifetime," today the NYC Economic Development Corporation issued a study saying that it's actually a great (if costly) idea that would help alleviate the crowding at Penn Station and "[maximize] the region’s economic growth potential."
The study, which you can read here (PDF), says, "The extension of the No. 7 Subway, which is complementary to Amtrak’s Gateway Project proposal, would result in the first trans-Hudson tunnel connection that would provide direct rail access from New Jersey, not only to the West Side of Manhattan, but also to the East Side and multiple locations in Queens. It would provide needed capacity across the Hudson River and advance the broader goal of enhancing regional connectivity." Here's a map:
Also, this study says extending the 7 train can take advantage of existing infrastructure spending ($2.1 billion for the 7 train's expansion to the West Side and $1 billion on NJ projects).
Mayor Bloomberg said, "It’s been a century since there was a new rail tunnel under the Hudson, and demand for travel between New Jersey and Manhattan is growing rapidly and quickly exceeding the capacity of existing transit infrastructure. The lack of new transit investment is creating a serious and urgent threat to New York City’s economic competitiveness. Extending the 7 train to Secaucus is a promising potential solution—it would leverage existing investments and be compatible with other proposed projects—and is deserving of serious consideration."
Jack May, a New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers member, told the Star-Ledger, "This will allow passengers from Bergen County to have a two-seat ride to the East Side of New York. They now have to deal with a real mess at the Port Authority Bus Terminal to make a transfer. This would become a very user-friendly situation. This will also relieve a lot of crowding on the trains that go to Penn Station. Many of the people that are coming up the Northeast Corridor and Midtown Direct will transfer to the No. 7 to get to the East Side, which will leave seats for those people who want to come from Bergen County to get to Penn Station. So this is a win-win situation."
NJ Governor Chris Christie, who famously cancelled the ARC Hudson River tunnel plan, has previously expressed interest in a 7 line extension. Of course, it's unclear exactly how much it would cost—so we'll keep dreaming the dream.