Lackawanna Coalition Gives Mixed Review to Amtrak “Gateway” Plan

The Amtrak plan would build new rail tunnels into the existing Penn Station, with new tracks to be built between 30th and 31st Streets, south of the existing station.  The station itself would be extended southward to accommodate new platforms, which would terminate just east of Seventh Avenue.  Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River would be replaced, and 2 new tracks would be built to Manhattan.
The Lackawanna Coalition considers this proposal a major step in the right direction, because Amtrak is not actively involved in proposing more rail capacity to the existing Penn Station.  It is also a significant improvement over New Jersey Transit’s former proposal, because it does not include a “deep-cavern” terminal, disconnected from the existing station.
The Amtrak proposal in its present form does not present the entire solution to the region’s transit needs.  New capacity is needed on the East Side, not on the West Side, which is already served from New Jersey.  Amtrak also proposes essentially a new 2-track line, which would not have the operational flexibility that would be gained from expanding the existing line into a 4-track railroad.
The Lackawanna Coalition and other rail advocates in the region continue to push for the Affordable ARC Now – Not Later! alternative, which would bring 2 new tracks directly into the existing Penn Station.  The line could be extended to the East Side later, when funding becomes available.
The Lackawanna Coalition calls for 3 elements of the Amtrak “Gateway” plan to be built as soon as possible: 2 new tunnels under the Hudson River for new tracks into Penn Station, a new 2-track line between the place where the M&E Line joins Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) line (Swift Interlocking, east of Newark) to Penn Station, and a new bridge on that line over the Hackensack River.  We suggest the existing Portal Bridge be rehabilitated, rather than replaced.
Other elements, including eventual East Side access, can be built later, when funding becomes available.  We believe that this project would provide the most cost-effective and least-expensive long-term solution to the Penn Station capacity constraints that prevail at peak commuting hours.