Tag Archive: Gateway

Christie’s Failed Transportation Policies

After five years of neglect, scrounging funds from Port Authority and highway tolls, and using ever-increasing borrowings, Gov. Christie has yet to formulate a comprehensive transportation plan. With work already underway before he took office, he cancelled the ARC tunnel. It would have increased our access to New York and provided a safety net if the two aging Hudson River train tunnels needed to be closed for repairs. That nightmare struck yesterday with an engineering report from Amtrak that “Superstorm Sandy inundated both tubes of the Hudson River causing significant damage to key tunnel components. A permanent fix is required now.

The seriousness of the problem cannot be overstated. The tunnels are used by both NJ Transit and Amtrak. As reported by the NY Times, “Closing just one of the two-track tunnels for a year or longer “would cut service by about 75 percent because trains headed into New York would have to share the remaining track with trains headed west from the city. It would reduce rush hour capacity to as little as 25%.”

Tom Wright, Executive Director of the Regional Plan Association, said yesterday, This can’t be done because closing the Hudson tunnels would have dire consequences for the region. We can’t close either of the Hudson tunnels until an additional tunnel is built.”

The Gateway Plan is a possible solution. “Amtrak agrees rehabilitation work for both damaged tubes of the Hudson River tunnel cannot reasonably begin until after the new Gateway tunnel is built and operating.” Amtrak proposed Gateway after Christie backed out of ARC. However, no significant planning has taken place, and completion of this proposal between NJ and Moynihan/Penn Station would take 10 to 20 years. In the meantime while less substantial repairs are underway, as WNYC indicates, “Your upcoming delays were avoidable…What happened was…Governor Chris Christie.”  

The Gateway Project, or a second try at a second Hudson rail tunnel

Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Amtrak announced plans for a new “Gateway Project” to replace the ill-fated “Access to the Region’s Core (ARC).” The name is an immediate upgrade! The motivation remains the same:

The existing 100-year old rail tunnels into midtown Manhattan are already operating at capacity during rush hour, and ridership is expected to double in the next two decades.

The Gateway Project is expected to increase NJ Transit commuter rail capacity into New York by 65 percent (increase from 20 to 33 trains per hour during peak hours).   The new tunnels will connect to the new Moynihan station as well as to a new Penn Station South that is connected to the existing New York Penn station, which has reached its capacity.

I think this map from today’s Gateway presentation (PDF) is very helpful:

Gateway Tunnel plans

As the map shows, notice how much of the work is in New Jersey. That’s something you wouldn’t know from Governor’s Christie’s talk. The Portal Bridge needs to be completely replaced, because it is just too low and too narrow. This plan makes use of much of the existing ARC work. (I wonder, but this is just baseless speculation, if going ahead with it would let New Jersey off the hook gracefully for the money we owe the federal government.)

The subway plan gets a tunnel across the Hudson but it does nothing for Amtrak and nothing for New Jersey Transit. That’s where a lot of these costs are.