Lackawanna Coalition Statement on ARC Cancellation

Advocates for the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative to the “deep-cavern” ARC project plan look forward to the opportunity to work with the Christie administration, NJ Transit, Amtrak, New York, and other regional players on development of an affordable, yet improved alternate plan for ARC, based on previous environmental and planning studies, that is advanced rapidly enough to make use of the $3 billion in federal New Start funds currently committed to ARC.
Moynihan/Penn Station First advocates include the Lackawanna Coalition, New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, Empire State Passengers Association, and the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility and their umbrella coordinating organization, the Regional Rail Working Group. The alternative also enjoys strong support from the Rail Users’ Network and the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
Riders on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Lines who go to New York have won a significant victory.  They no longer need to be concerned that they will be evicted from the existing Penn Station and forced into a dead-end deep-cavern terminal that would have been inconvenient and posed a safety threat in case of emergency.  The Lackawanna Coalition is particularly pleased the our Midtown Direct service will continue, rather than being turned into Midtown Indirect.

“Times” Letter Explains Need to Delay ARC

James P. RePass, chairman of The National Corridors Initiative, in a letter published in The New York Times on October 15, explained some reasons why the ARC trans-Hudson tunnel needs to be postponed, pending redesign.  In response to a Times Op-Ed column on Oct. 8 by Paul Krugman, which decried NJ Gov. Christie’s decision to kill the tunnel (since under reconsideration), DePass said that Krugman had not considered “key facts” about the tunnel project.  Writing from Mystic, Conn., DePass wrote first that the cost of the tunnel is considerably more than the original $8.7 billion estimate, “largely because of a parochial decision by New Jersey Transit to abandon the original Penn Station through-running alignment in favor of one that dead-ends in a deep-cavern terminal under 34th Street, usable only by New Jersey Transit.”  He goes on to state that, “Second, the dead-end tunnel cuts out all of New England and Eastern Canada from essential rail capacity growth; the less expensive Penn Station alignment allows for it, and also allows a future connection to Grand Central Terminal that would take hundreds of thousands of subway riders off overcrowded lines in Midtown.”  The letter concludes that Gov. Christie was right to kill “this vastly over-budget, dead-end tunnel”.  Tunnels are needed, but “we must do it right, so that both New Jersey Transit and Amtrak can use them, and so all of New England and Eastern Canada can benefit, not just New Jersey”.

Opposition to Deep-Cavern Terminal Grows

New Jersey opinion leaders are joining the Lackawanna Coalition and other rider advocates in opposing the proposed deep-cavern terminal that would be built 20 stories below Manhattan’s 34th Street as part of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project.  Columnists Paul Mulshine of the Star-Ledger and Bob Ingle of the Asbury Park Press have written in opposition to the proposed terminal; Mulshine likened it to the “Big Dig”, a highway project in Boston legendary for its cost overruns.  Jeff Tittel, Chairperson of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, has dubbed the riders who would be taken into the proposed dead-end deep cavern terminal the “riders of the lost ARC”.

Sept./Oct. Report from the Chair

From our September/October 2010 Railgram newsletter 
Every major decision New Jersey Transit makes affects transit riders everywhere in New Jersey.  That will be our topic of discussion as the New Jersey Transit Board and the Lackawanna Coalition “take our shows on the road” to Atlantic City on Sept. 10.
There are a number of projects under discussion that would expand NJT’s rail network, so it can serve riders better.  One is in South Jersey: a transfer station between the Atlantic City Rail Line (which goes to Philadelphia) and the River Line, a light rail line between Trenton and Camden.  Funding has been approved for the new station, but a colleague of ours in South Jersey reports that construction has not yet gotten under way.  Also, NJT reportedly will not kick in its share of funds on new light rail service between Camden and Glassboro,
which is being funded largely by the Delaware River Port Authority.
New projects around the state are not going forward.  The extension of light rail in Bayonne to Eighth Street, one stop from the current terminal at Twenty-Second Street, is not progressing, either.  The Lackawanna Cutoff Project to restore service to the Pocono Region and Scranton, which the Lackawanna Coalition strongly supports, still appears to be 6 years off, just as it has been for the past 10 years.  Extension of the Raritan Valley Line to Phillipsburg, West Trenton, and Flemington are stalled at the talking stage.  So is rail service to inland Ocean County.  So is the Northern Branch Light Rail extension in northern Bergen County.  There are other projects, too.
The reason is simple. The proposed deep-cavern terminal far below 34th Street in Manhattan is sucking up all available capital funding, including the purchase of rail cars and locomotives that NJT management claims will be necessary to operate into the proposed deep cavern.  This is not a temporary situation; it would be well into the decade of the 2020s before NJT has the money to build anything else of any consequence that would improve transportation for New Jersey’s transit riders, especially on rail.
That is why it is so critical that NJT change direction and work with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Amtrak to build an enhanced Moynihan/Penn Station First.  Between New Jersey, New York and Amtrak, there is enough money available to build a station that would have enough train capacity that a second terminal (NJT deep-cavern proposal) and a third one (Amtrak “780” proposal) would be needed.  NJT rail riders would benefit from easy connections with other lines, and expansion to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan is feasible in the foreseeable future. New Jersey would also save $3 billion by scrapping the deep-cavern terminal plan.
We are aware that New Jersey does not have money for its share of the cost of the proposed deep cavern.  This means that New Jersey certainly does not have enough money to build anything else.  If you use transit anywhere in New Jersey, you will not see any capital improvements for many years if the proposed deep-cavern terminal is built.  We urge you to make your voice heard now.  Join us in calling for an enhanced Moynihan/Penn Station First, so NJT will have money to build projects we all need and your transit can be improved in the future.

Bergen Record Questions Deep-Cavern Terminal Plan

Editorial Page Editor Alfred P. Doblin questioned the cost-effectiveness of the NJT proposal to build a deep-cavern terminal under 34th Street in Manhattan rather than bring new tunnels and tracks to the East Side.  In his column published on Monday, December 21st, Doblin said, “The reality is that putting more people in the same part of Manhattan is just plain dumb.”  Doblin criticized the proposed deep-cavern terminal because New York’s water tunnel lies between the proposed terminal and the East Side, making it impossible to extend the tracks to Grand Central Terminal.  He said, “This should be a deal-breaker for the project as planned.  It makes little sense to expend billions and billions of dollars for a less-than-perfect solution.”  The Record is the first major media outlet to question the NJT plan.

NJT Board Approves Over $1 Billion in “ARC” Contracts

The Board of Directors of New Jersey Transit approved $1.15 Billion in contracts for the “ARC” (Access to the Region’s Core, also known as Mass Transit Tunnel) and Portal Bridge Projects on December 9th, the last Board meeting before incumbent Governor Jon Corzine leaves office.  The contracts call for construction under Manhattan to build a tunnel alignment that would lead to the proposed “deep cavern” terminal to be located 175′ below 34th Street.  The Lackawanna Coalition and other rail advocates have objected to the deep-cavern terminal, claiming that the terminal itself would be inconvenient and unsafe, and that the $3 billion price tag for the terminal alone represents a waste of taxpayer money.  The Coalition called the issue a “litmus test” for the incoming Christie administration, claiming that saving the cost of the deep-cavern terminal would also improve convenience and connections for New Jersey’s rail riders.  Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Line riders are slated to be evicted from the existing Penn Station when their trains are moved into the deep-cavern terminal under the current NJT plan.