Tag Archive: NJ Transit

Hudson River Rail Tunnel Project Chugging Along With A Schumer Boost

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took the lead on the new Hudson tunnel project Monday, proposing that a new entity, the Gateway Development Corporation, manage the construction of two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River.

Officials from Amtrak and US Department of Transportation (USDOT) have endorsed the idea as a means to access different federal funds available.

While Governor Chris Christie has recently supported the project despite past reluctance, Governor Cuomo of New York remains reluctant to pony up the cash.

Even though this has been a problem for a while, it’s gotten worse in recent years. Given that the tunnels are 105 years old, this isn’t surprising.

Have corporations worked for New York transportation projects before?

The question regarding a new entity created solely to build a tunnel is how long will it last?

For 40 years, Robert Moses controlled an independent fiefdom of unaccountable corporations in New York. Some entities Moses created to build highways were supposed to be temporary until the debt incurred from construction was paid off by tools. But he found a way to never pay off the debt by diverting the money elsewhere and keeping the corporations alive.

Moses was no fan of public transportation and most of his projects came at their expense.

Hopefully history won’t repeat itself.

What’s the deal with Schumer and the Senate?

While Schumer sits on the Senate Banking Committee which has jurisdiction over mass transit, he’s never championed the issue.

He’s set to become the new Senate Democratic Leader in 2017, following the retirement of Harry Reid (D-Nev.). If the Democrats take back the Senate, he’d be Majority Leader. If not, he’d be Minority Leader.

As Democratic Leader, Reid blocked nuclear waste from being dumped in Yucca Mountain in Nevada, a site sacred to some Native Americans. It was designated a site for waste throughout the country years ago but Reid ended such notions.

In a similar vein, Schumer’s pet projects will likely see a boost. It was once said that the most dangerous place in Washington was between Chuck Schumer and a camera. But given the deficit in the federal Highway Trust Fund as well as New Jersey’s trust fund, even with Schumer’s leadership, this could take years.

Why is building the tunnel complicated?

The problem is that like the Freedom Tower’s construction, there are too many entities involved: the Governor of New York, the Governor of New Jersey, NJ Transit, the Mayor of New York, Port Authority, Congress, Amtrak, the president and his administration, and any private firms hired.

The Gateway project designed by Amtrak would cost around $15 billion. According to Amtrak, 80 percent of the cost would be covered by the federal government with 20 percent would come from the two states.

What’s with the deal with Schumer and New York?

The state of New York is bigger than postcards would have you believe. There’s a massive disconnect between New York City, its suburbs, and the rest of New York, which can be very rural or the poster child for post-industrial problems.

And Schumer, despite being a stereotypical Brooklynite, has worked hard at courting upstate. He’s spent time at understanding their problems, perhaps at the expense of the population centered two hours from Times Square.

How does presidential politics affect the Hudson River rail tunnel?

The tunnel is more likely to be built if a Democrat is elected president than a Republican. With Christie’s modest poll numbers, he’s unlikely to win the nomination, barring a game change. He could be an interesting VP or Attorney General pick, so he’d still be out earlier than normal. If he gets nothing and remains governor, he might go along with a deal if it looks good.

All the Democrats running presumably support the tunnel.

Read more of my insight at http://danulloasusa.blogspot.com/

Transit Fare Rally

In his post earlier today, josef outlined how the Democrats are complicit with our anti-worker governor in the hike of NJ Transit fares and the failure to raise revenue to cover mass transit and infrastructure.

Today, in front of the Capitol Annex, a coalition of advocacy groups under the umbrella of New Jersey for Transit spoke about this situation. Here are some highlights:

A full, unedited audio podcast will be posted in a few days. Names and affiliations of the speakers are below the fold.

ICYMI NJTV: NJ Transit Commuters Concerned About Proposed Fare Hike

I missed this last night; NJTV’s report on the crowded Newark public hearing about NJ Transit fare hikes and service cuts. I see two allies of ours – Rob Duffey and Jon Whiten, both of the NJ for Transit Coalition (Duffey, who NJTV misspells at Working Families Alliance, Whiten at NJPP).

We’re looking at a 9% hike to plug a budget hole. Context? If NJ Transit gets what it wants, the cost of a train tick will outpace inflation by up to 25%. Add in, proposed schedule changes on routes commuters depend on to get to work.

One piece of intel I had no idea about is supplied by JC mayor Steve Fulop, who suggests hikes might not be necessary if NJ Transit sells off its holdings in vacant lots:

“If you add in Hoboken, you’re probably looking at $150 million worth of assets,” he said. When asked if NJ Transit can plug the hole, Fulop said, “For certain. I mean they have some tremendously valuable properties that they just sit on and they use as surface parking, which is just an under-utilization of assets.”

Watch – on the jump page: