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Arc Tunnel

Transportation Nation

Your Upcoming Delays Were Avoidable

Friday, October 03, 2014

WNYC
News Analysis: It has come to this: tunnels under the Hudson were compromised by Sandy, and Amtrak's hoping a brand new tunnel gets built by 2024. But it didn't have to be so. 
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Transportation Nation

Christie: Lautenberg's Tunnel Project "A Dog That Deserved to Be Gone"

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

WNYC

A day after Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn't pull any punches over one of their most bitter disagreements:  a transit tunnel under the Hudson River that Christie cancelled. The death of the so-called ARC tunnel, for "Access to the Region's Core," rankled Lautenberg to the end.

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Transportation Nation

'Every Transit Rider In America Owes a Huge Debt to Senator Frank Lautenberg'

Monday, June 03, 2013

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg's final tweet was about a proposed train tunnel under the Hudson River. It was a fitting coda to a career that drove transportation policy — transforming everything from smoking on airplanes to instituting stricter blood alcohol standards for drivers. 

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Transportation Nation

Sen. Schumer: Fast Action Needed for New Amtrak Tunnel

Friday, September 28, 2012

(New York, NY -- Ilya Marritz, WNYC)  Senator Charles Schumer  (D-NY) warned on Friday that it will get more and more difficult to construct two Amtrak rail tunnels linking New Jersey and midtown Manhattan, unless the forces of government and the private sector quickly align.

"There is a major issue that has to be resolved right now or else the project may end up in the graveyard, as it did with ARC,"  Schumer said, referring to a previous rail tunnel plan that was killed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2010.

The reason? A new mixed-use neighborhood is being built on Manhattan's west side, on a platform directly above the site where the rail tunnels would emerge from below the Hudson.

"Amtrak's engineers have determined that the only place they can bring these new tunnels into Manhattan is under Hudson Yards, along a Long Island Railroad right of way," Schumer told real estate developers at a breakfast gathering organized by the New York Building Congress.

Schumer said the Related Companies, which are building the Hudson Yards neighborhood, are prepared to cooperate with Amtrak and the federal government. But Related plans to begin construction by the end of this year, making the Amtrak project especially urgent, the senior U.S. Senator from New York said.

"We will need contracts, design plans, and construction dollars to flow over the next six to twelve months to make this a reality. We need action, we need it fast," Schumer said.

The Senator said his next step will be to work to get agreements inked between the parties, so tunnel construction can begin before the end of 2013.

Schumer will also lobby for federal dollars to build the tunnels, known as the Gateway project. He estimates Gateway will require $20 million in 2013, and $100 million in 2014 for preliminary work.

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Transportation Nation

Lautenberg, Christie Appointee Feud Over Toll Hike, ARC Tunnel

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Port Authority's Bill Baroni, testifying at a Senate hearing

Listen to a conversation about the hearings -- and hear some audio from them - below.

UPDATED A Senate hearing ostensibly on the fairness of toll hikes devolved into a slugfest between Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)  and Bill Baroni, Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Lautenberg has been seething since New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed the ARC commuter tunnel under the Hudson River in late 2010.  Last summer's  Hudson River toll hikes -- raised by as much as 50% -- only added fuel to the fire.

Lautenberg had a line of questions prepared, including when the Governors of New Jersey and New York knew about the 2010 toll hikes and whether Baroni thought they were fair.

But Baroni, a Christie appointee, was prepared. "It is impossible to argue fairness in tolls if you don’t pay them," he said, pointing out that the senator -- a Port Authority commissioner from 1978-1982 -- had used an agency-funded EZ Pass at Port Authority toll crossings 284 times (a perk -- since discontinued -- formerly available to Port Authority commissioners for life).

Lautenberg seemed caught off guard by the statement, and although he quickly brought the line of questioning back to the toll hike, it looked like he had brought a butter knife to a switchblade fight.

The senator was also unable to pin Baroni down on one of his key issues: what did Governor Christie know about the Port Authority's plans for last summer's toll hikes, and when did he know it? Baroni wouldn't get specific. "I'm not going to talk about conversations that I have with different administration officials," he said -- spurring Lautenberg to retort: "Are you running a protection agency there?" "Excuse me?" responded Baroni, all wounded indignation.

But with all things Lautenberg and Christie-related, all roads lead back to the ARC tunnel. Senator Lautenberg is furious with the governor for canceling the trans-Hudson tunnel -- a project which the senator had long championed. "Why did the administration that we have in office now cancel $6 billion worth of money that we raised through this place to build a tunnel and get 22,000 cars off the road?" he spat at Baroni. A brief mic outage muted the Port Authority executive's response.

Lautenberg went on to grill Baroni about accusations of political patronage at the Port Authority, and told Baroni he had two weeks to supply the Senate committee with the names of people Governor Chris Christie had recommended for employment at the Port Authority.

"Sure!" said Baroni. "Should we go through them now?"

"Your impertinence is barely tolerable," Lautenberg told Baroni.

Later in the hearing, which stretched to almost 70 minutes, Baroni described the agency's plans to expand platforms at Harrison's PATH station. "Under the plan, we're going to be able to go to ten cars, and that's going to help us bring more rail —"

The senator abruptly hit the gavel twice. "Thank you very much. This hearing is over."

After the hearing, Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee chided Baroni: “I am troubled and disappointed by accounts of inappropriate discourse and decorum by a witness at the Senate Commerce Subcommittee this morning. A basic level of civility is expected from every witness who testifies in a formal Senate hearing and reports suggest that standard was not met today.”

Later this afternoon, Governor Chris Christie's press secretary, Michael Drewniak, sent the following statement dripping with enmity: (full statement at end of post) "Let’s accept the obvious:  the hearing was a partisan charade. Senator Lautenberg is deluding himself if he actually believes the practices he oversaw, participated in and encouraged during his time as a commissioner with the Port Authority are not relevant in explaining the Port Authority inherited by Governors Cuomo and Christie."

For his part, Lautenberg sent out a statement saying "Mr. Baroni engaged in distraction, deception and diversion.  I am very disappointed that the Port Authority continues to operate behind a veil of secrecy."

Lautenberg has requested that the GAO examine interstate tolling authorities. Meanwhile, late this afternoon, word was released that a joint New York-New Jersey hearing on the Port Authority -- scheduled for this Friday on Staten Island -- is being postponed.

Read below for a partial transcript of a piece of this morning's exchange. You can watch a archived video of Wednesday's hearing here.

Here's a transcript of part of this morning's exchange:

Lautenberg: The question is: did the size of the increase strike those of you who make decisions at the Port Authority as being fair? I mean, that’s a substantial -- 50% increase to cross the bridge. That’s a lot of money.

Baroni: Senator, thank you for the question, and I know that the conversation we heard, some of my colleagues talking about much it is. But as I described before, Senator, that if you are a cash-paying, non-EZPass using, rush hour driving truck, you are causing the most challenges physically to our crossings.  For every fully-loaded tractor-trailer that goes across our bridges, it (causes) 10,000 times the damage to our bridges as one car. But one of the reason we built all of the discounts in, Senator, is to be able to -- those folks who are commuting, who have an EZ Pass, or drive in off-peak, and, Senator, respectfully I understand the concerns that people have about paying tolls across the Hudson. It is something that commuters as you mentioned, Senator, each and every day – but respectfully, Senator, you only started paying tolls recently. For years, Senator, as former commissioner of my agency, you received free EZ Pass. Year after year – in fact, I have a copy of your free EZ Pass. I’ve got letters from ‘01 --

Lautenberg: how often was it used? Do you know?

Baroni: yeah, actually. ’01, ’02, ’03

Lautenberg: what? how many times?

Baroni: I can tell you. In...

Lautenberg: I’m not going to permit you to continue with this silliness.

Baroni: Well, Senator, you took 284 trips for free in the last two years you had the pass.

Lautenberg: I want you to answer this question. (Baroni. Sure!) Is this fair? Is this toll increase fair to the public at large?

Baroni: I think, Senator, for those--

Lautenberg: talk about the individual cars (crosstalk) I want to keep you on track. So. Let's go.

Baroni: Senator, it's impossible..certainly, Senator. It is impossible to argue fairness in tolls if you don’t pay them.

After that testy exchange, Baroni talked about the Port Authority's discount toll programs and how many vehicles use EZPass (81%) -- but  Senator Lautenberg was doing the slow burn.

Lautenberg: To pull out that little thing that I got after serving after in the Port Authority for four years -- I don't even think about using it, Mr. Baroni.

Baroni: of course not, because we took it away.

Lautenberg: Well, what happened, what happens, it was there, that's what they did, that's what I took and I'm not going to defend it. That's a silly thing to bring into this. I want to discuss your direction of this grand agency and where the money is gone, and why the increases were so large. What - what - is that fair play in your view? Why did the administration that we have in office now cancel $6 billion dollars worth of money that we raised through this place to build a tunnel and get 22,000 cars a day off the road? Do you want to talk about those things?

Christie's office sent out the following statement:

"As we learned today, Senator Lautenberg himself perpetuated some of the very dysfunction that only now, under Governors Christie and Cuomo, is being reversed through reforms and intensive audits.  A few counterpoints raised by Deputy Executive Director Baroni:

→ Senator Lautenberg, a wealthy businessman who was a commissioner of the Port Authority from March 1978 to December 1982, received free annual passage at Hudson River crossings and parking privileges at all NY/NJ airports for 24 years.  Mr. Baroni pointed out that in the final two years of his free EZ Pass, the Senator made no less than 284 free toll crossings.

→ At the height of his hypocritical moments today, Senator Lautenberg became enraged when Mr. Baroni pointed out that one of Sen. Lautenberg’s 2002 campaign staffers in charge of “U.S. Senate Candidate Visibility” was hired at the Port Authority after the campaign as a “principal energy specialist.”

While Mr. Baroni told the Senator he was available to talk all day and present evidence about PA tolls and operations, the hearing ended abruptly with Senator Lautenberg visibly angry over the turn of events.  Repeatedly, Senator Lautenberg tried to stop Mr. Baroni from providing answers that didn’t fit the hearing game plan or that held inconvenient truths.

→ “I’m not going to permit you to continue with this silliness,” Senator Lautenberg said as he cut off Mr. Baroni’s discussion of EZ Pass discounts available to motorists and the Senator’s free privileges.  “Certainly Senator,” Mr. Baroni replied, “it is impossible to argue fairness in tolls when you don’t pay them.”

→ Let’s accept the obvious:  the hearing was a partisan charade. Senator Lautenberg is deluding himself if he actually believes the practices he oversaw, participated in and encouraged during his time as a commissioner with the Port Authority are not relevant in explaining the Port Authority inherited by Governors Cuomo and Christie.

→ The toll hikes at the NY/NJ crossings were the last thing the Governors wanted to see happen.  But by 2010, the agency was mired in a fiscal crisis years in the making that required the reduced toll hikes the two Governors finally had to approve.  And the undisputed fact of history is that only since Governor Christie took office have reforms been enacted, payroll numbers and costs beenreduced and independent audits – warts and all – been ordered.  Sure, hold a hearing, ask all the relevant and necessary questions you like, but Senator Lautenberg should have spared us the hypocrisy and fake outrage.

 

And

Here's Senator Lautenberg's statement:

PORT AUTHORITY’S BARONI CALLS $12 TOLLS “FAIR”

LAUTENBERG PRESSES PORT AUTHORITY ON ALLEGATIONS OF PATRONAGE AND MISLEADING THE PUBLIC

BARONI ENGAGES IN “DISTRACTION, DECEPTION AND DIVERSION” AT HEARING

WASHINGTON – At a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Surface Transportation subcommittee hearing today, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg pressed Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni on the Port Authority’s recent toll hikes and allegations of patronage and mismanagement.

During his testimony, Mr. Baroni stated that $12 tolls on drivers are “fair” and repeatedly refused to answer questions about when Governor Christie became aware of proposed toll increases.

In contrast to Mr. Baroni, witnesses from AAA and the American Trucking Associations were very clear about their strong opposition to the toll hikes, the burden they put on families and businesses, and the lack of opportunity for public input about the toll increases.

“We called this hearing to help New Jersey drivers understand the reasons behind these massive toll increases and what steps the Port Authority is going to take to fix their serious problems,” said Sen. Lautenberg. “Instead, Mr. Baroni engaged in distraction, deception and diversion. I am very disappointed that the Port Authority continues to operate behind a veil of secrecy. Despite this stonewalling, I will continue to stand up for New Jersey commuters and businesses.”

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It's A Free Country ®

Who Had the Better Week—Cuomo or Christie?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cuomo embraces "Obamacare," Christie defends his tunnel vision, and late heroics crown this week's surprise winner.

Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

NJ Gov Christie on ARC Tunnel: Believe Me, Not The "Bureaucrats in Washington, DC"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NJ Gov. Chris Christie spoke about the ARC Tunnel at a press conference in Bridgewater. (Photo by Sharyn Jackson/WNYC)

(New York, NY - WNYC) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie doubled down today in his fight with Congressional investigators over whether he used faulty numbers to justify killing the ARC tunnel.

As readers of TN know, ARC is an acronym for Access to the Region's Core, a commuter rail project that would have brought more trains between Manhattan and New Jersey--a crowded and increasingly popular corridor that is nearly at capacity.

Christie claimed the trans-Hudson tunnel was on track to cost $14 billion, with overruns borne by New Jersey taxpayers. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office says the price tag was more likely to have been $10 billion and that the state would have paid only 14.4 percent of that.

The issue is important because Christie rode it, in part, to make a name for himself as a politician who dared hold the line against government spending, which in turn thrust him into the ranks of Republicans who are considered viable presidential candidates. Following is a transcript of the governor's remarks on ARC and the GAO report from a press conference this morning; you can also listen to his comments below.

So the fact of the matter is that--and the last thing by the way that the report doesn't understand is what you understand about the way it works with the Port Authority. This was considered a New Jersey project in the Port Authority and you know that there has to be parity between New Jersey and New York spending. So every dollar we spent on cost overruns, either from the state of New Jersey or if you did it from the Port Authority, would come out of other Port Authority money that would go to other New Jersey projects. That cost New Jersey. So it's absolutely appropriate for us to say that that's a New Jersey cost, because that money would otherwise be available for other New Jersey  projects. So here's the bottom line, Michael. First is I don't think anybody in New Jersey needs advice from Congress about how to spend money. We see what a mess they're in down there. And I think the people of New Jersey are comfortable with the fact that I made the evaluation we couldn't afford this and cancelled it as a result. Secondly, the implication that somehow I should have let this project go forward and left it to later because they would have worked something out with us on the cost overruns? That's akin to like, I'm here from Washington and I'm here to help, you know. I was not putting New Jersey tax payers at that risk.

So let's everybody really read the GAO report and let's look at the commentary this morning from the person at the GAO who said this morning in the newspaper that the report does not opine on the accuracy of any of the numbers.

So, let's stop... I'm happy to be criticized -- happy to be criticized --  by Sen. Frank Lautenberg and the New York Times. I take that as a badge of honor. Actually it means I'm doing something right for the taxpayers in this state...

(another question, inaudible)

That's because they don't understand the Port Authority parity issue. That's New Jersey money, paid by New Jersey tollpayers. That expect it to go to New Jersey projects. And every nickel of cost overruns  that would go to that contribute to a greater contribution by New Jersey. Michael, look at our reporters notes from yesterday, we go through this in great specificity and what it shows from the real numbers is, that the cost to New Jersey was anywhere between 72 and 78 percent. And so this is just a basic misunderstanding by bureaucrats in Washington DC who don't understand how the Port Authority works. They say the Port Authority is not New Jersey money. Well it sure as hell is New Jersey money. And it's money that wouldn't be available to work on the Goethals Bridge. It's money that wouldn't be available to work on the Bayonne Bridge. It's money that wouldn't be available to rebuild the Lincoln Tunnel helix. These are all New Jersey projects. And that we would not get the money otherwise. So they misunderstand it...

I urge you all to look at it and to stop reading the New York Times as your primary source for information on this. It was a leaked report, spun by partisans to the New York Times. And if you read the report they do not once say that we exaggerated the numbers. They don't once give an opinion as to which numbers were right. One thing they do point out in there, is three times in five months, the FTA changed the numbers. You want me to rely upon the FTA estimate when they changed them three times in five months? What that shows me is they had no idea what this project was going to cost, and that's what I was saying. We had no way of knowing how much this was gonna cost, but the one thing the GAO report does confirm? New Jersey was on the hook for every dollar of the cost overruns. And the only thing they can say is, well, the federal government may have helped in the end. Yeah, you know, that's like, I'd be happy to pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today. Sorry, I'm not letting the New Jersey taxpayers be exposed in that way.

 

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Transportation Nation

ARC Tunnel Report: Cost Wouldn't Exceeded $10 Billion -- And NJ Didn't Have To Pay for Most Of It

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

(UPDATED WITH MORE INFORMATION) A federal government's report is raising questions about why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie scrapped the ARC tunnel.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie canceled the trans-Hudson tunnel in 2010, saying that the cost could balloon to $14 billion and that the state would be on the hook for overruns. But a Government Accountability Office report says that the state was only kicking in 14.4 percent -- not the 70 percent that Christie was claiming -- and the cost of the tunnel would not have exceeded $10 billion.

The governor is standing by his figure, saying the GAO isn't counting the New Jersey dollars that the Port Authority would've had to spend on the project, and that the state also would have been billed for related upgrades, like a new railroad bridge near Secaucus.

In statement, Christie's office said: "It was the FTA’s own projections, in an August 2010 memo, that confirmed a rise in projects costs from $8.7 billion to anywhere between $10.9 and $13.7 billion, not including the $775 million Portal Bridge Project that was necessary to complete the ARC project in its entirety."

But U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, who requested the GAO report, said in a statement that the tunnel was "critical to the future of New Jersey’s economy and it took years to plan, but Gov. Christie wiped it out with a campaign of public deception." He added: "commuters were sacrificed for the short term political needs of the governor."

Here's a pdf of the report, which was released Tuesday.

(with reporting from Jim O'Grady)

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New Jersey News

Report Disputes NJ Governor Chris Christie's ARC Tunnel Fears

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Independent congressional investigators are raising questions about why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie scrapped the Hudson River rail tunnel project in 2010.

Comments [3]

It's A Free Country ®

Who Had the Better Week—Cuomo or Christie?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Both governors made big investments this week: one in infrastructure, the other in Israel.

Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

BREAKING: NY MTA Head Says 7 Train to NJ "Not Going To Happen In Our Lifetime"

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

(photo by 12th Street David via flickr)

MTA chairman Joe Lhota says a proposed extension of the 7 train subway line from Manhattan to New Jersey is "not going to happen in our lifetime. It's not going to happen in anybody's lifetime."

Lhota said "the expense is beyond anything we're doing," adding that building railyards in New Jersey would be costly.

Lhota was speaking Tuesday morning at a breakfast meeting of the New York Building Congress at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

He was asked about a trans-Hudson rail connection and what might fill the gap of the ARC Tunnel, a project killed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in late 2010. Lhota said he favors Amtrak's proposed Gateway Tunnel project, which would bring Northeast Corridor trains from New Jersey through a tunnel under the river to an expanded Penn Station. "I think it's really important to support that," he said.

The impetus for a 7 train extension comes from New York City  Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the project last year.

"I've told the mayor this, I can't see that happening in our lifetime," Lhota said.

Within hours of Lhota's comments, speaking at his own press event, Mayor Bloomberg said he understood funding was an issue, but that he hoped the 7 extension "happens in somebody's  lifetime."

"I have great respect for Joe Lhota and he' s a realist," the Mayor added. "I don't know, we can keep trying. It would be great if it happened. Having more tunnels over to New Jersey will help both New Jersey and New York City. If people can go back and forth and it would clean the air because there would be less traffic jams on the tunnels and bridges. Getting a ways to have people come in and out of the city with mass transit is obviously the way to go. I'm sure what Joe is referring to is its very hard to see the funding for that come right now--if someone could provide the funding, I can tell you Joe Lhota could build it.".

Lhota said that he understood the project's appeal to some riders. "Of course New Jersey would like to have it because they think they can get across the Hudson for $2.25."

But then he reiterated his assessment of a subway to Secaucus: "Not a chance."

 

 

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Transportation Nation

LaHood: Gateway Tunnel "Absolutely Critical" To NY/NJ Region

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DOT head Ray LaHood threw in a plug for a trans-Hudson rail crossing known as the Gateway Tunnel.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) -- a longtime booster of a new trans-Hudson rail crossing between New Jersey and New York City -- was questioning the secretary at Thursday's Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Department of Transportation's budget. Lautenberg asked LaHood:  "You've looked at this proposal many times. What impact might the Gateway Tunnel project have on mobility and the economy of the Northeast Corridor?"

LaHood's response:  “We are working with both New Jersey and New York. We know this tunnel is absolutely critical and we will continue our work. Look, if this is the priority for the region, then it becomes a priority for us.”

The Gateway Tunnel, which would boost capacity for both Amtrak and NJ Transit, was proposed last year as an alternative to the ARC tunnel -- which NJ Governor Christie cancelled in October 2010.  In November 2011, the Senate approved $15 million for Amtrak to begin design and engineering work on the Gateway project.

You can watch the video of Thursday''s exchange below.

 

 

 

 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: LaHood Defends Auto Bailout, Christie Ready to "Get My Arms" Around the Port Authority

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Joe Lhota, The MTA’s Rider/Chairman, Uninimously Confirmed (Link)
Transit Advocates: Where’s the Money for a Direct Train to New Convention Center? (Link)
Severe Weather Events Continue to Cost US: Big $$ to Alabama, Vermont, NY, NJ (Link)
New York’s Night Riders Unhappy with Subway Sleep (Link)
Rick Santorum, as Senator, Preached the Gospel of Transit (Link)

Ray LaHood (center; blue tie) at the Detroit Auto Show (photo courtesy of US DOT/Fast Lane)

NJ Governor Christie says he and NY Governor Cuomo are ready to work together on the Port Authority: "It's my time to get my arms around this agency now." (NorthJersey.com)

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood kicks off the Detroit Auto Show; defends government bailout of automakers. (Detroit Free Press)

And: automakers are flooding the auto show with new hybrids, but with gas prices below $4 a gallon, consumers are not buying them. (New York Times)

Chinatown bus company Double Happyness -- under federal orders to stop operating after being deemed an "'imminent hazard' to public safety"--has continued to sell tickets, violating a cease and desist order that was issued last week. (DNA Info)

Canceling the ARC tunnel last year cost NJ Transit nearly $300 million, according to an audit. (The Record)

DC's Metro is proposing a 5% fare increase. (WAMU)

Detroit's light rail project may yet live again, just .. shorter. (Transport Politic)

Want a state road for free? A Nevada transportation official said Monday that there has been "zero interest" in his agency's offer to give counties and cities 903 miles of state-owned and maintained roads. (Las Vegas Review Journal)

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Transportation Nation

New Jerseyans on Toll Hikes: We Don't Care Why They're Being Raised, We Just Care That We Have To Spend More Money

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

(Photo by William Hartz via Flickr)

How do New Jerseyans feel about the New Year's toll hike on the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway?

Notsogood.

"I don't think the commuters really care how you want to characterize it," said Star-Ledger reporter Mike Frassinelli on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show. "A lot more money is coming out of their pockets. You can call it a tax hike, you can call it a toll hike. They just know more money is coming out of their pockets and they're not really happy with it."

Wednesday's Brian Lehrer Show devoted the last segment of its show to talking about the impact upon drivers.  (You can listen to the segment below.)

Callers were generally unsupportive of the hike -- like Joe in Madison, who said he worked for the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. He called the toll hike  a tax on small businesses. "It makes it harder for us to do business, and to provide the arts to the community."

One topic on the segment: what Brian called "the political blame game:" NJ Governor Chris Christie is blaming the toll hikes on his predecessor, Jon Corzine -- a statement that is factually correct.

The toll increases were initially planned as a way to help fund the now-canceled trans-Hudson ARC tunnel. Earlier this year, the NJ Turnpike Authority voted to redirect that toll revenue to the state's transportation trust fund.

This week NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg -- an ARC supporter --blasted the governor for allowing the toll hike to go through. "It's shameful that New Jersey commuters are paying more without getting more in return," he said in a statement. "The governor was quick to cancel the badly needed tunnel, but flat-out refused to cancel the associated toll increase."

You can listen to the segment below.

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Transportation Nation

Senate Approves $15 Million For Trans-Hudson Rail Project, Future Uncertain

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

(image courtesy of Senator Lautenberg)

In the wake of the ARC tunnel's cancellation last year, there have been different proposals for increasing trans-Hudson rail capacity. Like extending the #7 subway to Secaucus, which has recently captured the attention of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Now, another trans-Hudson alternative --the Gateway Tunnel -- won a small victory on Tuesday when the Senate approved $15 million for Amtrak to begin design and engineering work.

Like ARC, Gateway would dig two rail tunnels underneath the Hudson River from New Jersey, terminating just south of Penn Station. And, like ARC, the Gateway project aims to alleviate the biggest rail bottleneck in the Northeast -- trans-Hudson capacity in and out of Penn Station.

Amtrak had initially wanted $50 million for the study, but the corporation put a brave face on receiving $35 million less then it requested. "Today’s announcement also brings us one step closer to Gateway’s desired goal -- expanding track and station capacity necessary to enable Amtrak’s next generation high-speed rail plan and support improved service for thousands of Amtrak and New Jersey Transit passengers traveling between New York and New Jersey each day.”

But just how much closer it really brings that to fruition is unclear. Although the Senate has approved the $15 million funding, the bill must now be reconciled in an Amtrak-unfriendly House. And no one can even hazard a guess as to how the total cost of the $13.5 billion project might be funded.

But Gateway is the reality that New York and New Jersey have, and the fact that the Senate has approved funding puts it that much further along than the #7 to Secaucus. And Gateway does something the # 7 doesn't: it lays the groundwork for bullet trains in the northeast.

Petra Todorovich, the director of America 2050, said: "The way I see it is the ARC tunnel was primarily... regional commuter rail with side benefits for inter-city rail.  The Gateway tunnel is more of a project focused on inter-city rail with side benefits for commuter rail."

But while Todorovich viewed the $15 million as a positive step, she said: "Now we’re back to studying the options for relieving capacity constraints under the Hudson River."

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who championed ARC and is now a Gateway booster, said: “This funding will allow Amtrak to begin moving the Gateway Tunnel project forward to create jobs, increase access to commuter trains, and bring America’s first real high-speed rail project to New Jersey and the Northeast Corridor.”

His colleague, Senator Robert Menendez, added: "People crossing the Hudson River are facing outrageous tolls, traffic jams, and train service that is getting less and less reliable. The Gateway Project will add enormous capacity across the Hudson and also pave the way for true high speed rail for the entire region. This will create jobs now and unlock enormous economic opportunity in the future.”

New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also emailed statements of support for the project.

Juliette Michaelson, director of strategic initiatives at the Regional Plan Association, said she was sorry to see the ARC Tunnel go. "There’s a very clear need for more transit service between New Jersey and New York. ARC was one way to do it, it wasn’t perfect, but it had the funding, it had all the environmental approvals, it was underway... Now that it's gone, there are any number of proposals on the table."  Not just the Gateway project and the #7 subway, but also options like building a new bus garage at the Port Authority, extending the L train, and adding ferry service. But, she said, "all of this will take a long time to shake out. And we've got to do it right."

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Extending the Subway to New Jersey Could Cost Less than ARC

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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.

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WNYC News

Extending 7 Train to New Jersey Could Cost Less Than ARC Tunnel

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WNYC

A draft study done for the city 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.

Comments [12]

Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: NYC Mayor Backing #7 Subway to Secaucus Plan, BP Profits Triple, BRT to Michigan?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Mitt Romney is making President Obama's support for two high-end green car companies a campaign issue. (Link)

The first Mexican truck has crossed the US border. (Link)

Formula 1 racing is coming to NJ. (Link)

Waiting for a bus on Staten Island (photo by johnpignata via Flickr)

But: is NY making its own "ARC mistake" by killing transit on the bridge? (Second Avenue Sagas)

And: the lack of transit drew criticism at a Tappan Zee public comment session. (Journal News)

Real-time bus arrival information will come to Staten Island by the end of the year. (Staten Island Advance)

A Maryland panel recommended a gas tax hike, fare increases and an end to transit raids to fund state transportation projects. (Baltimore Sun)

The NY Post reports that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be announcing plans to move forward on extending the No. 7 subway to New Jersey.

The Port Authority will raise the Bayonne Bridge by 2016. (NorthJersey.com)

Michigan's governor wants to jump start a regional transit system in Detroit with bus rapid transit. (Detroit Free Press)

NYC taxi update: the city will crackdown on the $350 no-honking-except-in-an-emergency rule (WNYC).  And the Taxi and Limousine Commission is surveying passengers about their cab rides (NY Daily News).

Boeing's Dreamliner made its maiden voyage after a three-year delay. (Guardian)

18 months after the massive oil spill in the Gulf, BP stages a comeback: company profits have tripled. (Marketplace)

Reporters complain about the Acela, continue to ride it. (Politico)

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WNYC News

Transit Dispute Fueled Rancor Between Christie, Obama Administration

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

WNYC

When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he was not running for president but vowed to make President Barack Obama a “one-termer,” the feeling may have been mutual.

Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Bicycling on the Rise in China, NYC May Update Ancient Parking Zoning Rules

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Top stories on TN:

The ARC tunnel dispute fueled rancor between NJ Governor Christie and the Obama administration. (Link)

Why is it going to take 8 months to put more L trains into service? The MTA and transit union blame each other. (Link)

Special parking for car share programs is being piloted in San Francisco. (Link)

Rand Paul: forget beautification, spend money on fixing infrastructure beasts. (Link)

Questions about subway service? Call 511 (photo by Kate Hinds)

Want to reach New York's MTA? Dial 511. (NY Observer)

Bicycling is on the rise in China. (NPR)

NYC may be getting ready to update the ancient zoning rules regulating parking spaces in the outer boroughs. (Crain's NY)

NJ Transit approved the $95 million settlement with the federal government over the canceled ARC tunnel. (AP via NJ.com)

A look at email correspondence between opponents of a Brooklyn bike lane, pre-lawsuit. (Streetsblog)

Virginia governor: EPA regulations are "job-killing." (WAMU)

NY Daily News editorial: MTA inspector general must investigate LIRR service disruptions, emergency responses.

The head of the Chicago Transit Authority blames the union for the agency's $277 million gap; the union says 'it's not us.' (WBEZ)

 

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