Funding Increase Coming for Northeast Corridor; Benefits Our Trains, Too

The New Jersey Legislature has authorized funding for Northeast Corridor (NEC) improvements of $35.7 million for fiscal year 2013—an 81% increase over the $19.7 million originally proposed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.  The NEC line is important for rail riders in our area, because Midtown Direct trains on the Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton, and Gladstone trains use it to get to and from Penn Station.
Coalition Political Director Jim Raleigh and Technical Director Joseph Clift campaigned in Trenton for this increase, with help from Coalition member Brad Payeur.  A story by Clift, with bar chart detailing NEC funding, is in the June-July issue of the Railgram.

Coalition Calls for Affordable Trans-Hudson Project

Coalition Calls for Affordable Trans-Hudson Project, As Feds Demand “ARC” Money Back from NJT

Just as the Lackawanna Coalition made the case in New England for an affordable project that would bring a new rail tunnel into New York’s Penn Station to improve regional connectivity, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) reiterated its demand that New Jersey repay $271 million that it had advanced to New Jersey Transit for the former “ARC” project.

There is little dispute that New Jersey rail riders should have an enhanced railroad and a new tunnel to New York Penn Station, and the Lackawanna Coalition insists that it can and should be built for an affordable price. The Coalition has advocated for such a project since before Gov. Chris Christie terminated the former “ARC” project last fall.  Christie halted work on the project, which would have included a new “deep-cavern” terminal 20 stories below 34th Street in Manhattan, because of its excessive cost.  He also noted that the project was “flawed” because it did not go to Penn Station or connect with Amtrak and could not be extended to the East Side of Midtown.  This past February, Amtrak proposed its Gateway Project, which would bring new tracks into a stub-end annex adjacent to Penn Station, but its price tag is equally high and no source of funding has been identified for it.

Continue Reading Coalition Calls for Affordable Trans-Hudson Project

Coalition Helps Connect New England by Rail

“We CAN Connect New England by Rail” was the theme of a conference held in New Haven on April 29, and members of the Lackawanna Coalition helped with the effort.  This writer moderated a panel on “Connecting New England with South of New York”.  Technical Director Joseph M. Clift described our proposal for building a new track through the Meadowlands and a new tunnel into Penn Station, both at a reasonable cost.  Today, there are only two tracks into New York’s Penn Station from New Jersey, and one is taken out of service every weekend.  Our plan would guarantee that at least two tracks are always available, under normal operation or a foreseeable emergency situation.

Political Director James T. Raleigh explained the importance of proper strategy when campaigning for a project. He stressed that going to legislative hearings and similar events is the key to gaining the credibility that is needed for effective advocacy.  This is the strategy that helped to defeat the proposal for a deep-cavern terminal far below Manhattan streets.

Richard J. Arena, who divides his time between Boston and New Jersey, stressed the importance of connectivity between the regions.  New Jersey was well-represented among the attendees, which included 10 members of the Lackawanna Coalition, coming from 5 states. The conference was cosponsored by the Rail Users’ Network (RUN), the Connecticut Sierra Club, and the National Corridors Initiative (NCI).

FTA Sends Bill to NJT

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has sent a bill to New Jersey Transit for $271 million for money advanced to the agency for work on the ARC Project, which Gov. Christie scrapped last month.
NJT Executive Director James Weinstein disputed the bill and also said that there will not be a fare increase to raise money to pay it.
Lackawanna Coalition Techical Director Joseph M. Clift said that, while NJT has sunk costs of about $600 million on the project, that is better than incurring billions of dollars of debt that New Jersey would have to pay in the future.
The Lackawanna Coalition and other rider advocacy organizatios continue to advocate for the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, which would bring new tunnels to the existing Penn Station with enhancements to improve station capacity.

Coalition Member Presents Coalition Position on NJN-TV

Joseph M. Clift, chair of the Technical Committee of the Lackawanna Coalition, appeared on New Jersey Network on Sunday, September 26th, to present the position of the rider advocacy alliance concerning the ARC Project.
Clift presented the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative and its benefits to New Jersey’s rail riders, and concluded by inviting Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) to take the walking tour of the Penn Station area that Clift and Coalition Political Committee Chair James T. Raleigh give to demonstrate the feasibility of theMoynihan/Penn Station First alternative to the deep-cavern terminal favored by New Jersey Transit.
Senator Michael Doherty (R-Warren) also spoke against the project as currently proposed by NJT, saying the there are insufficient funds available for New Jersey to afford its share of the project, if it includes the proposed deep-cavern terminal.  Zoe Baldwin of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign spoke in favor of the project as currently proposed, along with Wisniewski.
Their views were presented on On the Record, a public affairs program broadcast on Sunday mornings.  It can be found in the Archives on the station’s web site,