Extending the Subway to New Jersey Could Cost Less than ARC

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 06:05 PM

A draft study has found an extension of the number 7 subway to Secaucus, New Jersey, would cost far less than the NJ Transit tunnel Governor Chris Christie killed last fall — but would lose only about 5,000 of an expected 130,000 riders per day that were projected to ride the ARC train.

"The idea of having good transportation and mass transportation is something that is very appealing to this city," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday. "I’ve always argued that if you’re going to depend on cars to come into this city, we’re always going to have delays."

Mayor Bloomberg’s administration began looking into the idea of extending the 7 train to Secaucus shortly after the NJ Transit tunnel, known as the ARC tunnel for “Access to the Region’s Core,” was killed.

Christie said he killed the $9 billion project because the actual cost could run as high as $15 billion, and he was concerned that New Jersey taxpayers would be left holding the bag.

But city officials said the new project would have a broader base of financing — from the city, the Port Authority, the state, NJ Transit, the federal government, and the MTA.

And the preliminary study, which exists only in draft form and has not been made public, projects the “Secaucus 7” project would cost less than the ARC because it wouldn’t go as far into Manhattan, or require the construction of a train station in midtown Manhattan, as the ARC tunnel would have.

Bloomberg pushed the extension of the number 7 line train to the far West Side when the city was vying for the 2012 Olympics. That bid failed, but the city is spending $2 billion to bring the 7 train to the Hudson Yards, where the city is planning a major development project. The extension to 34th street and 11th Avenue makes it that much closer to New Jersey.

But the MTA response was lukewarm: “Right now our focus is on finishing the three biggest transportation projects in the entire country, and in making sure that we have the funding we need to keep our capital program moving forward.”

The MTA faces a $10 billion shortfall in its capital plan through 2014. The Port Authority is also short of cash. The bi-state agency recently raised tolls to support reconstruction efforts at the World Trade Center Site and other major infrastructure projects, including replacing all of the suspension cables on the George Washington bridge.

Both the MTA and the Port Authority have new leaders, who have been tasked by Governor Andrew Cuomo with containing costs.

The money that would have been spent on the ARC tunnel has been re-allocated elsewhere. Privately, transit experts expressed doubts that the tunnel could be built so cheaply, or that it could be completed anywhere in the near term. The ARC tunnel was 20 years in the planning.

The 7 extension has the enthusiastic support of the Bloomberg administration, which met with all the major transit agencies and representatives from both governor’s offices.  Christie is also backing the project, which could — if it’s constructed — end up giving him bragging rights that killing the tunnel produced a cheaper alternative, particular for New Jersey residents.

"We have been intrigued all along by this as a potential alternative to the ARC tunnel project, which was an albatross for New Jersey and its taxpayers with its billions in cost overruns to be absorbed entirely by New Jersey," Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement. "We will continue to explore the No. 7 subway plan, its feasibility, benefits and costs with the city and state of New York and the appropriate government agencies in both states."

The project could help New Jersey commuters get to Manhattan faster than by bus, but it would require a transfer to the New York subway system, which is seen as a less desirable ride than a commuter train. A terminus in Secaucus could also provide the possibility to increase bus capacity in New Jersey, since the number of buses traveling to Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel is currently at capacity.


Comments [5]

Joshua F. Whalen

Oh, please! The L train is crowded enough as it is. If NJ desires a connection to NYC, that's just fine. BUt Staten Island has been waiting since before the 2nd world war for a rail connection to the rest of NYC, so let's kill 2 birds with one stne, and instead, let's extend the G train over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and then over the Bayonne Bridge, up Kennedy Blvd, and have the NYC - SI rail link for NYC tax payers in the deal, and save the expense of building a new tunnel.

Oct. 29 2011 10:03 AM

No dice Martin. The Cranberry tunnel (A,C) are maxed out. CBTC is necessary to increase present 30 TPH to 40. The existing curved down slope tunnel from Chambers to Fulton St under the E, R, and 4,5 and the tight confines of Fulton St also make for a difficult and very expensive connection. There is also the fact that PATH railcars are about 9 inches narrower than B Division NYCTA railcars. The resulting gap requires some sort of bridging mechanism onboard the railcars or in the platforms.

Oct. 29 2011 01:36 AM

Why is all the discussion about extending the 7 train to Secaucus when it may be more desirable to extend the L train instead? If the L train is extended, then the 7 train would avoid a tight turn from 11th Ave to the river tunnel, plus more capacity would be provided due to the simple fact that L train cars are wider than 7 train cars. The 7 train then can just be extended to the L train, to provide a connection to Midtown from Secaucus.

Oct. 28 2011 02:44 PM

The two are not interchangeable. ARC would have provided additional capacity on the busiest rail corridor in the country. The 7 train extension makes sense, but it will be a different ridership than those riders who would have been on the NJ Transit trains in the art tunnel.
There is one other line extension that would make a whole lot of sense: bring the PATH to Newark airport, and have it join the A and C line tracks out to JFK. Create a one-seat ride to two of the three major airports from downtown Manhattan.

Oct. 28 2011 12:08 AM

I find it contemptible that the Mayor cuts funds for schools, libraries, police etc in the City, yet has $250,000, and potentially much more to spend on a feasibility study for a project designed to help New Jersey commuters. It's particularly galling given the MTA's current finances forcing service cuts and much needed but still unfunded capital improvments to the subway system. And why is one nickel of NYC taxpayer dollars being used for a project that will benefit New Jerseyans, especially when you consider the refusal of the NJ Governor to commit taxpayer dollars on his side? Are our kids supposed to suffer through reduced programs and larger classes to fund the Mayor's "legacy?"

Oct. 26 2011 09:32 PM

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