Plans to extend the New York City Transit No. 7 subway line, which runs between Flushing and Times Square in Manhattan, onward to NJ Transit’s Secaucus Junction transfer station have surfaced again. The idea was first proposed more than 2 years ago by Mayor Bloomberg’s administration; then-chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Joseph Lhota dismissed the idea about a year ago, saying the line was “not going to happen in anybody’s lifetime”. However, now it’s back in the news, following a report prepared by the engineering consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, according to reporting by Matt Flegenheimer in The New York Times (April 11). The MTA continues to be skeptical, noting that the new report does not contain any cost estimates. Plans for new trans-Hudson rail capacity have been in flux since Governor Christie of New Jersey scuttled plans for a new heavy-rail tunnel, called “access to the region’s core”, in October 2010. More recently, Amtrak has proposed new tunnels that could be shared by Amtrak and NJ Transit. Governor Christie’s office, reacting to the new study, noted that the Governor had been “intrigued” when the No. 7 extension had been originally proposed and that the Governor would continue to explore its viability.
According to the New York Times, since the demise of the ARC tunnel project, New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s administration has been studying extending the No. 7 subway line under the Hudson to connect with NJ Transit at Secaucus. This would expand the regional transportation system and alleviate much of the overcrowding expected on NJT trains in coming years. It would also give NJT riders direct access to the East Side of Manhattan, Queens, and the entire New York subway system. Writing in the Times on November 16, Charles Bagli and Nicholas Confessore report that the subway extension would be much simpler than the ARC tunnel, since the No. 7 subway extension to 34th Street and 11th Avenue is already planned, and further extension would not require condemnation proceedings or extensive tunneling under Manhattan; the already-planned extension will end just one block from the waterfront. It is reported that New Jersey Gov. Christie’s office is interested to hear more about the plan. Although the plan would face formidable hurdles, it is thought that some of the preliminary work done for the ARC tunnel, including environmental impact statements, could be used to expedite planning and approvals.
The Lackawanna Coalition believes that regional planning for an integrated transportation system is essential, and welcomes proposals such as the No. 7 extension, which might well form a useful part of an integrated commuter, rapid transit, and intercity rail infrastructure.