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.
“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).