Columnist Criticizes Lautenberg for Continuing to Defend Deep-Cavern Proposal

Partisan politics appears to be heating up over the issue of the ARC Project with New Jersey Transit’s proposed deep-cavern terminal under 34th Street in Manhattan, which Gov. Christie has said will not be built.

Asbury Park Press columnist Bob Ingle criticized Senator Frank Lautenberg for continuing to defend the proposal to build a deep-cavern terminal far below 34th Street in Manhattan as part of the ARC Project.  NJT had proposed new tunnels into Manhattan that would not go to the existing Penn Station, but now acknowledges that the cost of a new deep-cavern terminal will be billions of dollars more than previously stated.

Ingle said: “U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg is missing a chance to demonstrate his worth in Washington and become a hero back home but instead he keeps pushing the same old plan.”  Lautenberg held a press conference at Penn Station in Newark to defend the plan but, according to Ingle, he merely “sounded old themes.”

Ingle quoted Gov. Chris Christie as reacting to Lautenberg’s conference by saying: “Senator Lautenberg can do what senators do, which is talk. . . .  What governors are supposed to do is decide.  If it’s going to cost New Jerseyans 2 to 5 billion more than what it’s projected to cost now, it’s not going to happen.”

Ingle also called on Lautenberg to help promote a new tunnel that Amtrak could use, rather than the deep-cavern proposal that Christie rejected.

The Lackawanna Coalition and allied rider advocates have consistently called for new tunnels to go to the existing Penn Station, so Amtrak and NJT can both use them, noting that such a plan will deliver better performance, while saving billions of dollars.

Ingle’s column was formerly to be found on the paper’s web site,

Tunnel Debate Continues

New York MTA Chairman Jay Walder reportedly said on October 13 (at a Crain’s Business Breakfast Forum) that if New Jersey doesn’t want the $3 billion allocated for the ARC tunnel, the MTA will be looking to secure some of the funds for its own needs. (Reported on WNYC.)  Meanwhile, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) held a press conference at Newark Penn Station on October 14 to unveil a new study by the Regional Plan Association.  The study says that the tunnel would improve NJT’s on-time performance and is essential for regional growth  (Asbury Park Press, The Record).  Sen. Lautenberg has also been quoted as saying he’s in contact with a large New York financial firm regarding possible private financing for the tunnel (Star-Ledger online, reported Oct. 13).

The Lackawanna Coalition believes that a new tunnel is needed, but not in its present “deep cavern” configuration; the tunnel should instead lead to Penn Station, a much more flexible arrangement that would advance regional transportation.  The Coalition disputes the study’s conclusion that the “deep cavern” configuration would speed up travel; the long times required for riders to access a station 180′ below street level would actually lead to an increase in overall travel time.