“Gateway” Project Gains Traction

Increasingly, transportation experts and politicians are getting behind a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel plan, the so-called Gateway project, according to Steve Strunsky, reporting in the Star-Ledger (June 14). The catchier “Gateway” name isn’t the only advantage over the now-defunct Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project, derided as “the stop in Macy’s basement”.  Like ARC, Gateway would double rail capacity into Manhattan by constructing 2 additional trans-Hudson rail tubes, and would also encompass smaller projects, including the Moynihan Station expansion of Penn Station passenger facilities into the main Post Office and replacement of the aging Portal bridge over the Hackensack River.  However unlike ARC, Gateway would be fully integrated into the existing Penn Station.

Amtrak board member Anthony Cosca, speaking at a Regional Plan Association conference, said, “What should be clear is that nobody, nobody is debating that we need this.”  Where the money might come from remains unclear; estimated cost of the project is $13–15 billion, higher than the ARC project estimates.  New Jersey Gov. Christie, who killed the ARC project as an unaffordable cost to NJ taxpayers, has not ruled out support for Gateway.  Amtrak supports the project as essential to eliminate a bottleneck limiting Amtrak’s long-range high-speed rail plans.  If Gateway goes forward, it would take until 2025 to complete the project.  NJ State Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson said that Gov. Christie would be fully briefed on Gateway; “We’ll see where it goes,” Simpson said.

Amtrak’s Gateway Proposal Includes “Bergen Loop” to N.Y.C.

This article was published in the Bergen Record. It is quoted here as a matter of interest, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Lackawanna Coalition.

Bergen and Passaic county commuters could have a direct ride into New York if Amtrak’s proposed Gateway project is built, an official said Tuesday.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole, citing an April 12 PowerPoint presentation, said Amtrak’s plan to build a pair of rail tunnels under the Hudson River to connect North Jersey with New York includes a “Bergen Loop option”.

He said that would allow trains carrying commuters on NJ Transit’s Pascack Valley and Main-Bergen lines to link into the Northeast Corridor to New York

Those lines don’t directly feed into the corridor; as a result, commuters transfer at Secaucus or Hoboken.

The article was formerly found at this link: http://www.northjersey.com/news/Amtraks_Gateway_proposal_includes_Bergen_loop_to_NYC.html

Let’s Get Behind Amtrak Tunnels

This editorial article was published in the Asbury Park Press. It is quoted here as a matter of interest, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Lackawanna Coalition.

It’s all water under the bridge now, or more precisely, water over the tunnel.

But the release on Tuesday of a federal Government Accountability Office report concerning the scuttled Hudson River rail tunnel project has opened old wounds and brought about a whole new round of “Gotchas!” and “I told you sos” from champions of the project and those who opposed it.  This is decidedly unhelpful.

What would be helpful is to put an end to partisan sniping and after-the-fact finger pointing, and find a way to get across the river.  And, in fact, there is one remaining possibility: the proposed Gateway Tunnel being studied by Amtrak, which would involve building a second set of tunnels and an annex to Penn Station in New York.  Instead of rehashing the past, New Jersey’s senators should continue their support for the Amtrak proposal, and the state ought to do what it can to move it along.

This article was formerly available at thttp://www.app.com/article/20120412/NJOPINION01/304120006/Let-s-get-behind-Amtrak-tunnels

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.

NJ Senators Back “Gateway” Tunnel

US Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both New Jersey Democrats, said in a press release on Sunday, February 6, that they now back a design for the trans-Hudson rail tunnel that would follow the now-cancelled tunnel that would have ended in a “deep cavern” station under 34th Street in Manhattan.  However, as long proposed by the Lackawanna Coalition and other rail advocacy groups, the “Gateway Tunnel” would be built in collaboration with Amtrak and would terminate at 7 new tracks in Penn Station.  Graphics included in the press release indicate that the new tracks would be located in “Penn Station South”, to be built under the city block immediately south of the existing Penn Station complex.  The new design was said to allow for 13 additional NJ Transit trains per hour and 8 additional Amtrak trains (the press release hints at up to 30 additional trains).  The new design also would allow a direct connection to Grand Central Terminal, according to the proposal.  A news conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday, February 7, at the Hilton Newark Penn Station; both Senators and Amtrak President Joseph Boardman were reported as planning to attend.  (Reported by various sources; the Star-Ledger’s website nj.com is reported to have broken the story.)