Initial Reaction to Gateway Tunnel, Son of ARC, is Positive

Monday, February 07, 2011 - 10:21 PM

Route of defunct ARC project in blue; route of proposed Gateway Tunnel in red.

(New York - Jim O'Grady and Kate McGee, WNYC) Gateway Tunnel--bride, son, mutant offspring of ARC--you choose--has been unveiled.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman joined New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez on Monday to pledge $50 million for an engineering and planning study of a new trans-Hudson rail link between New York and New Jersey. It was the first of many steps if the $13.5 billion project is to come to fruition.

Like ARC, which was canceled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for potential cost overruns, the Gateway Tunnel is meant to address a bi-state rail crisis.

It's backers say the project would increase commuter rail capacity by 65 percent by allowing New Jersey Transit to add thirteen more trains during peak hours and for Amtrak to run an additional eight trains per hour into New York City. The project also plans to speed up rail traffic in the Northeast Corridor by replacing the hundred-year-old Portal Bridge in New Jersey.

"Our commuters are fed up with train delays that make them late to work and endless traffic that traps them on our highways when they want to be home with their families," said Senator Lautenberg at a press conference announcing the tunnel. "The Gateway Project is a vision for our future that will shorten commutes, create jobs, increase property values and grow New Jersey’s economy."

For his part, Governor Christie said he found the new plan, “fascinating.” He said it also ratified his decision to pull the plug on ARC.

“If I had been intimidated by all the rhetoric from all the folks who were shooting at us at the time, the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey would be on the hook for untold billions of dollars,” he said at a press conference of his own. He added that Gateway, if built, would be better than ARC because it could potentially link to the 7 train, which would carry New Jersey commuters from Penn Station to points east in Manhattan.

The governor also stressed that this time, with Amtrak leading the charge, the feds would largely cover the cost.

Senator Menendez indirectly supported that point when he was asked at the Gateway press conference where the money for the project would be found. “I look at the president's budget on high speed rail, I look at a series of governors in the Midwest that have turned back the money that is eligible for them,” he said. “If we work with our regional partners here in an understanding of the regional benefits of this, we have a real opportunity to make this happen.”

Early reviews from civic and environmental groups were positive.

“This is great news to get the right tunnel in the right place," said Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club. "We desperately need another tunnel into Manhattan and this is where it should have gone all along.”

"Exciting news," added Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Amtrak President Joseph Boardman gave another reason to get a warm feeling about the project: he said Gateway will create 60,000 construction jobs and bring an additional 69,000 jobs to the area.


Comments [3]

Mark Shapp

The Gateway Tunnels, if they are ever built (and I am not optimistic) will go to Penn Station. The plan, if I have it correctly, calls for expanding NYP, adding tracks and platforms on the south side that may be stub ended. They would be primarily for eastward NJT trains that will be turned for westbounds instead of going to Sunnyside Yard for midday storage. Amtrak trains continuing to BOS and NJT trains destined for Sunnyside will be able to access the middle tracks in the station that lead to the East River tunnels.

As for the inter-regional running Martin wishes for, yes that might spur greater transit usage and operationally make Penn Station more fluid. But the electric propulsion systems aren't the same. LIRR is DC current third rail and NJT AC current overhead wire. Moreover, NJT electric locomotives and self-propelled MU cars are not equipped with third rail contact shoes and LIRR self-propelled MU cars do not have pantographs. In any case all this equipment is not capable of operating on both AC and DC power.

The only Metro North line physically connected for run-through service is the New Haven Line via Amtrak's Hell Gate Bridge Line down from New Rochelle. Much needs to be done to give that line the necessary capacity to handle both services given the NYMTA's wish to have at least four stations on that line to provide local service between Manhattan and the far east Bronx.

Adding to that, I don't think the Metro North/ CT Department of Transportation self-propelled MU cars have the necessary dual-mode capability. That equipment operates on part of their route AC current in the overhead wire and DC current in the third rail and part of their route on AC overhead wire. But I don't think they can operate on both AC voltages.

The MNR self-propelled MU cars
that operate on the Hudson and Harlem Lines can only operate on DC third rail.

Meanwhile, the splendid plan to extend the #7 Line to Secaucus Transfer, which would allow a one-seat subway ride to Manhattan's east side and Grand Central has been shot down.

In the end even the well-thought out Gateway Tunnel project will meet the same fate as the greatly-flawed ARC/NJT tunnel project did. Even in the heavily congested NY/NJ metro region, the only transportation mode for which money will be made available will be roads and road bridges. Remember, the politicians of both the Right and the Left do not ride transit.

Jan. 12 2013 02:55 PM
ray leneweaver

Every thing is fine except for Nacy Pelosi

Feb. 10 2011 03:50 PM

Any tunnel that does not connect to the Penn Station tracks is a tunnel to nowhere. The new tunnel needs to add further capacity to the entire station, with future connectivity to Grand Central.
The ultimate goal needs to be an integrated system of transit in New York. In the meantime, there needs to be further collaboration between the various tenants of Penn Stations. NJ Transit trains that run to Long Island, Metro North trains that run to the Jersey Shore.

Feb. 10 2011 03:40 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.