Registration for swim team conditioning for kids ages 5 through 17 begins Feb. 20. See briefs for more information. ×Registration for swim team conditioning for kids ages 5 through 17 begins Feb. 20. See briefs for more information. Get free income tax preparation helpUnited Way of Hudson County is teaming with the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program and HOPES to prepare and file federal and state income taxes for locals. The service runs through April 13.To be eligible, participants must have been New Jersey residents for all of last year. They must also have a Social Security number, work in New Jersey or New York (or have taxable income like pensions, IRA distributions, interest, or stock trades.), and not have an income from a rental property or a business with employees, inventory, a loss, or over $25,000 in total expenses.The AARP Foundation will be offering walk-in filings Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Foundation is located at 855 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City.HOPES will be offering filings Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by appointment only. HOPES has locations in the Hoboken area, including 532 Jackson St., Unit 1B and 300 Bloomfield St.Call (201) 468-8805 for more assistance and information. NJ Transit approves proposed alignment for light rail expansion into Bergen CountyThe Hudson-Bergen Light Rail’s (HBLR) expansion into Bergen County received a major boost this week, as NJ Transit has just approved the plan’s proposed alignment, per a press release.The approval for the project’s Locally Preferred Alternative, detailed in its 2017 Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact statement, is mandatory in the federal environmental review process.The route is a 10-mile, seven station extension from HBLR’s current Tonnelle Avenue terminus in North Bergen. It would include an additional North Bergen stop at 91st Street, and others in Ridgefield, Palisades Park, and Leonia, all the way to the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.NJ Transit’s Board of Directors also authorized the route’s submission to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority Board of Trustees for designation and inclusion in their Long-Range Regional Transportation Plan.By choosing this route, NJ Transit will be able to begin design and engineering activities once they complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement, and the Federal Transit Administration grants a Record of Decision for the project.Upcoming schedule for parenting classes at Palisades Medical CenterPalisades Medical Center has announced its upcoming schedule for parenting classes for new moms, and moms to be.The hospital will hold its Childbirth Education Series two day courses on March 17 and 24, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Additional courses will follow, at the same times, on May 5 and 12, then June 9 and 16. Cost is $125 per couple if delivering at Palisades Medical Center; $150 if delivering elsewhere.The class covers topics such as understanding the labor process, breathing and relaxation techniques to work with your body, the role of the support person.Newborn Baby Care classes will run on Feb. 24, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; March 27, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; May 19, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; and June 12, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. These classes cover basics of newborn care, starting with the appearance and characteristics of a newborn. Cost is $35 per couple if delivering at Palisades Medical Center; $50 if delivering elsewhere.Key to Successful Breastfeeding classes will run on Feb. 27, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; April 7, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; May 8, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and June 23, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Topics include the importance of skin-to-skin contact, latching techniques, supply and demand as it relates to breastfeeding, positioning for breastfeeding, indications for breast pumps.Dads are encouraged to attend. Cost is $35 per couple if delivering at Palisades Medical Center; $50 if delivering elsewhere.There will also be Sibling Preparation for Birth Classes, $25 per family. Contact Robin Petrick for more info on this class at (201) 295-4823. For more information in general, please call (201) 854-5000 or visit palisadesmedical.org. Union City residents killed in Tonnelle car crashA stretch of Tonnelle Avenue known for accidents saw the death of two Union City residents on Sunday, Feb. 11. The northbound lanes between Manhattan Avenue and North Street were closed for hours as authorities investigated the wreck.According to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, the two fatalities were Mario Guevara, 25, and Heather Acosta, 24, both from Union City. They were pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the crash.The crash occurred at about 3 a.m. The Hudson County Regional Fatal Collision Unit, which was established earlier this year, responded to the scene.One car flipped over and the other jumped the curb, hitting a telephone pole and destroying the gate of a nearby building.This came two days after Mayor Steven Fulop announced the city’s adopting of a “Vision Zero” policy in an effort to eliminate deaths and serious injuries.Fulop issued an executive order that allowed Jersey City to join with more than 30 municipalities seeking to establish traffic safety strategies. The crash occurred in the same section of Tonnelle Avenue where a police chase last June resulted in a vehicle bursting into flames.Trump administration deals ‘serious jeopardy’ to Gateway Tunnel project Federal transportation officials have assigned the Gateway rail tunnel and other components of the massive infrastructure project a new rating that further jeopardizes the chances of winning grant money from Washington.A story on Politico.com says the Federal Transit Administration sent an annual funding report to Congress on Monday for its Capital Investment Grants Program that assigned a “Medium-Low” rating to the proposed $13 billion Hudson River tunnel, the second-lowest on a five-point scale. It was the first time the grant application had received a formal rating. The FTA also reduced the rating of the Portal Bridge North project from “Medium-High” to “Medium-Low.” That bridge replacement that would fix one of the single-greatest bottlenecks on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line.Those involved in the Gateway Program said the change was likely to put chances of receiving federal funding under the New Starts program in serious jeopardy.The Trump administration rejected an Obama-era agreement to cover half the cost of the broader $30 billion Gateway Program, which calls for constructing two new tubes connecting New Jersey to midtown Manhattan and repairing the existing tunnel that is now falling apart. The White House has also proposed ending the New Starts program, but Congress has so far protected the funding source.“In case it wasn’t clear before, President Trump today tried to land another death blow to Gateway by having his Federal Transit Administration (FTA) vindictively and inexplicably downgrade the project in order to cut off critical federal funding,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement on Monday.In the case of the Portal Bridge project, which previously received a rating in February 2017 and was estimated to cost $1.6 billion, the FTA is taking the position that the amount of committed or budgeted funding from other sources had fallen from 57 percent to 21 percent of the total cost. The FTA said that is a primary reason the rating was reduced. The new ratings were issued in November and, according to a person familiar with the Gateway application, did not factor in any information received in October, when new details had become available.John D. Porcari, the interim executive director of Gateway Program Development Corp., said the ratings fail to take into account the commitments from New York and New Jersey. The states have agreed to split half the cost of the tunnel project, putting up $5.5 billion, though they’ll need federal loans in order to do so. The grant application asks the federal government to cover the remaining costs.Porcari said the Portal Bridge application, in which local agencies would also cover about half the total cost, “has only been improved with each updated submittal” since the first rating was issued. He noted early construction work has been underway for several months.“We are surprised and disappointed by the sudden downgrade based on what appears to be changing evaluation criteria,” Porcari said. “We continue to work closely with USDOT to strengthen our funding applications and remain confident that the merits of the projects warrant significant federal investment.” Upcoming community flu clinics will be Feb. 21Mayor Nicholas Sacco and the North Bergen Health Department invite you to the Adult Community Flu Clinics on Wednesday, Feb. 21 in the Terrace Apartments Community Room, 6800 Columbia Ave., from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and at the North Bergen Public Library Main Branch, 8411 Bergenline Ave., from 2 to 4 p.m.The North Bergen Health Department, in collaboration with North Hudson Community Action Corporation, will also provide the influenza vaccine to children at school. There will be no cost for this vaccine, and the school will send a form that will include options allowing you to either accept or refuse the vaccination for your child.If you have any questions about the vaccine or the vaccination clinics, please call (201) 392-2084 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.Registration for swim team conditioning opens Feb. 20Mayor Nicholas Sacco and Commissioner Hugo Cabrera announced that registration for swim team conditioning for boys and girls ages 5 to 17 will be open from Feb. 20 through March 29.This is a program to improve competitive swimming skills, racing starts, flip turns, and stroke technique. Children must be able to swim and pass a swim test. This is not a learn-to-swim program.Register between 2 and 9 p.m. Monday to Friday at the North Bergen Recreation Center, 6300 Meadowview Ave. Practice will be held on Tuesday evenings from April 3 through May 22.Proof of residency is required, along with a birth certificate/passport, and a non-refundable $35 registration fee. All forms of payment are accepted. For more information call (201) 861-9601.