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Gateway Tunnel

Transportation Nation

Second Trans-Hudson Tunnel Gets Some Real Money

Thursday, May 30, 2013

WNYC
The Gateway project is getting $185 million cash infusion from post-Sandy aid.
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Transportation Nation

How Sandy Might Tweak Today's High-Speed Rail Privatization Hearing

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rendering of an Amtrak NextGen high-speed rail train

On Capitol Hill today, high-speed rail in the Northeast will get dissected and debated.  This time though, Amtrak head Joe Boardman will sit at the witness table with some support from record ridership numbers. And also Sandy.

You can watch the House Transportation sub-committee hearings here at 10 a.m. ET and see the full list of-top level witnesses here

The hearing continues a series of grillings GOP lawmakers have been giving to Amtrak in a push to reduce the subsidies the national rail network relies on each year. Other witnesses on the docket include a DOT rep, an American Enterprise Institute Scholar and a Morgan Stanley managing director.

The 15 word hearing title obscures the topic, so it's pasted way down below in this post, but rest assured the conversation will cover privatization of high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor.

Outgoing House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica who will chair today's hearing has long supported the idea of building high-speed rail in the Northeast because that route is the only one profitable for Amtrak, but he has argued that funding, and even operations, could be provided by the private sector. Big spending on big projects need not come entirely from the government, Mica has argued.

Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution says, "Superstorm Sandy did change the conversation around infrastructure, particularly in the Northeast."

The storm, which caused $60 million in losses to Amtrak and billions in damages to other transit agencies, showed the need for expensive upgrades, and a scale of risk involved that demands more active government investment. "The enormous bills we have from Sandy are not going to be born by the private sector. It's ridiculous to think so."

He says, "there is a role for the private sector to play" and he hopes the hearings hone in on it because finding the right role is crucial.

Puentes also says, states are likely to play an increasingly large role in Amtrak funding in the future. As the national government becomes more reticent to pay for unprofitable rail routes, states that want to keep their service will have to start chipping in.

One test case to watch for this model could be the Sunset Limited line along the Gulf Coast that was washed away in 2005 by Katrina. Local officials are lobbying to get it back. The cash-strapped states of Alabama and Mississippi would need to pony up though, and so far it's stalled.

Today's hearing though, is on the Northeast Corridor, where megaprojects are on the table and profits are a reasonable lure for business involvement. The "vision" for high-speed rail still carries a price tag of $151 billion and a minimum construction time of several decades. There is no plan for how to find that huge sum.

Amtrak is likely to try to draw the focus to a more immediate project that is incremental to the "vision," the Gateway program, which would add two new tunnels under the Hudson River into New York's Penn Station from New Jersey. There are two existing Hudson tunnels at capacity now. They both flooded during Sandy along with two of  the four tunnels under the East River.

Petra Messick, a planner with Amtrak  says the tunnels are needed for projected ridership growth but, Sandy also showed the value that new infrastructure could bring.

"When the Gateway Tunnels are built, they will be built in the 21st century and include a host of features that will make them more resilient ... like floodgates," Messick says.

The existing tunnels are more than a century old.

And in case you were still curious, that full 15 word title is: “Northeast Corridor Future: Options for High-Speed Rail Development and Opportunities for Private Sector Participation.”

 

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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

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: DC Uses Decoys to Catch Bike Thieves, Toyota Plant Opens in Tupelo, Congress Approves Gateway Tunnel $

Friday, November 18, 2011

Top stories on TN:

For transit agencies, climate change could cost billions. (Link)

House Republicans marry domestic energy drilling to transportation funds. (Link)

Congress zeroes out high-speed rail funding. (Link)

Bike racks outside DC Metro (photo by Palmetto Cycling Coalition via Flickr)

Republicans hail "the end to President Obama’s misguided high speed rail program." (The Hill)

An East Side Access tunnel worker was killed by falling concrete under Grand Central Terminal. (New York Times)

Congress formally approved $15 million for the trans-Hudson Gateway Tunnel; engineering work will now begin. (The Star-Ledger)

DC's transit police are using decoys to catch bike thieves. (Washington Post)

Rethinking public transit, especially in rural areas, doesn't have to be expensive. (New York Times Opinionator)

"Secret" Port Authority bonuses are being investigated by the NY Comptroller's Office. (The Record)

A long-awaited Toyota plant is finally opening in Tupelo, Mississippi. (Atlantic Cities)

Staten Islanders will protest tolls tomorrow. (SILive.com)

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WNYC News

Senate Approves $15M for Trans-Hudson Rail But Future Remains Uncertain

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

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

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Montreal Bike Share In Debt; Amtrak to Senate: Gateway Tunnel "Critical" for Region

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Senate Democrats want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the oil industry is fixing gas prices. (Marketplace). Meanwhile, their proposal to strip oil companies of tax breaks failed in the Senate yesterday (New York Times).

Politico writes: "Republicans have a messaging problem on gas prices. More Americans actually believe in UFOs and ghosts than blame President Barack Obama for causing their pain at the pump."

Montreal's Bixi bike share program, losing money and in debt, needs financial backing from the city. (The Globe and Mail)

Auditions for NYC's "Music Under New York" program were held yesterday; WNYC stopped by to take pictures -- and audio -- of the would-be subway performers. Take a listen!

CNN Money profiles the president of Alta Bike Share, the company behind the bike share programs in Boston and DC.

Workers move closer to their jobs, take transit, buy less, as a result of gas prices:  (New York Times)

Loudoun County officials are exploring what would happen if they withdrew funding for the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport. (Washington Post)

The Congressional Budget Office floated a mileage tax at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on “Financing 21st Century Infrastructure.” (The Hill)

Meanwhile, at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing for the Federal Railroad Administration's budget request, Amtrak president Joseph Boardman said the Gateway Tunnel is "critical" to high-speed rail service. He added:  "I think we're out of capacity in the Northeast Corridor...we have no place to put the New Jersey Transit trains that come into Penn Station." (Video below via Senator Lautenberg, YouTube)

The Freedom Rides turn 50 this year, and two original freedom riders talk will about that activism on today's Brian Lehrer Show. (WNYC)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- high fuel prices squeeze Montana agencies (link)

-- DC wants to impose fees on intercity bus industry (link)

-- DC's mayor will announce new DDOT head today (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Housing Near Public Transport More Energy Efficient, Mexican Trucks Coming to US Roads, and NY Bike Registration Legislation Withdrawn

Friday, March 04, 2011

An EPA report says housing near public transportation uses less energy than homes in the suburbs, even Energy Star-rated ones. (USA Today)

Politifact fact-checks Florida's high-speed rail debate.

Queens Assemblyman Michael DenDekker is withdrawing his proposed legislation requiring bicycles to be registered. (NY Daily News)

The Bicing story: the video below shows the impact that Barcelona's bike share program has made on city streets.

NJ Governor Chris Christie says: "I’m ready to invest in mass transit between New Jersey and New York--I’m just not willing to be fleeced for it" -- and adds that two recent ideas for a trans-Hudson tunnel - extending the #7 and the "Gateway" tunnel - are better projects for the state than the ARC tunnel was. (Star-Ledger)

President Obama and Mexican President Calderon have agreed to let Mexican trucks on US highways (Marketplace).  What does that mean for American truckers? (The Takeaway)

The NY Daily News wants NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to stick to dedicated bus lanes -- and only dedicated bus lanes -- on 34th Street.

Lose something in a NYC taxi? There's an app for that! (NY1)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Florida Governor Rick Scott are scheduled to talk about high-speed rail this morning. The NYC DOT's 34th Street redesign will itself be redesigned.  The DC chapter of the ACLU wants people who have had their bags searched on the Metro to come forward and help them sue WMATA. And the House voted to extend the nation's surface transportation law.

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Transportation Nation

NJ to Feds: We May Not Have Agreed About ARC Tunnel, But We Agree We Shouldn't Have To Pay

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Jersey politicians might not have agreed about the ARC tunnel -- but when it comes to paying back the federal government $271 million in ARC money, they present a united front ... against paying, that is.

Yesterday, Governor Christie's office released a copy of a letter that the entire New Jersey congressional delegation --13 congressmen (yes, the entire delegation is male) plus the two senators -- sent to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, expressing concern that "forcing New Jersey to pay these funds will undermine efforts for a new Trans-Hudson tunnel."

New Jersey has been pursuing legal action to avoid repaying the Federal Transit Administration $271 million that the agency billed the state for work on the ARC tunnel project. This letter appears to be the latest attempt by the state to try to get off the hook for the bill.

We reached out to the DOT for comment, wondering:  what triggered this letter? Were there discussions afoot about repurposing that money for a new iteration of a Trans-Hudson tunnel -- like the Gateway Tunnel or extending the #7 subway? The DOT says they have "no update."

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Transportation Nation

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

Monday, February 07, 2011

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.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: New Trans-Hudson Tunnel To Be Announced Today; Disabled DC Residents To See Fare Hike; Congestion Pricing Opponents Fret About Its Comeback,

Monday, February 07, 2011

Amtrak and NJ Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are set to announce the next iteration of a planned trans-Hudson tunnel: The "Gateway" tunnel, which would largely follow the same footprint as ARC from Secaucus to New York City, but connect to new tracks in an expanded New York Penn Station instead of dead-ending deep under West 34th Street. (TN)

Traffic deaths are up slightly in NYC -- but the city’s traffic fatality rate remains among the lowest in the country, holding steady around a quarter of the national rate. (New York Times)

A NY Daily News editorial accused NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan of being too secretive about where her office plans to install future bike lanes. "Trying to pry information about bike lanes out of Sadik-Khan's shop is this city's version of phoning North Korea to ask about atomic weaponry."

More cheer for JSK: Potholes wreak havoc upon New York's roads. "Mother Nature has thrown everything at us this winter, and we're striking back,"says the NYC DOT commissioner. (NY Daily News)

South Africa's transport minister turned over ownership of Johannesburg's bus rapid transit company --which had been opposed by taxi drivers -- to taxi industry shareholders. (Times Live)

Disabled Washington area residents are facing significantly higher fares starting this month on MetroAccess. Officials say the price of travel on the para-transit service will nearly double. (WAMU)

Ford will boost vehicle production for US market while trimming Lincoln dealerships. (Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration has decided to allow limited collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers. (Washington Post)

A Charleston (SC) paper comes out in support of a bike/pedestrian walkway over a bridge, says: "It is time to recognize that transportation should include driving, biking and walking."

Opponents of congestion pricing in NYC are moving swiftly. "We'd like to prevent that proposal from seeing the day of light of day," said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. (WNYC)

New York's MTA says the tunnel boring machine that has been making its way down Second Avenue is about to complete its first run.

Snakes on a train! Boston transit officials say a 3-foot-long boa constrictor that slithered away from its owner on a Red Line subway car a month ago has been found on an adjoining car. (Boston Globe) (And nope, there was NO WAY that headline could be avoided.)

And speaking of ARC: NJ's state Ethics Commission has dismissed allegations the state’s transportation commissioner might have violated ethics policies through his involvement with the ARC train tunnel to New York City. (The Star-Ledger)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A new trans-Hudson tunnel will be announced today. Meanwhile, NYC has hired an engineering firm to study the feasibility of extending the #7 train to NJ.  Opponents of the Prospect Park bike lane have lawyered up, while adjustments are in the works for the Columbus Avenue bike lane. And Metro North has slashed service on the New Haven line by 10%.

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Transportation Nation

Son of ARC? NJ, Amtrak To Announce Plans TODAY for New Version of Trans-Hudson Tunnel

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Jim O'Grady, WNYC)  It’s not ARC 2 but it’s awfully familiar.

Amtrak president Joe Boardman and New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez plan to stand up today at the Newark Hilton and announce a “Gateway Tunnel” between New Jersey and Manhattan. They’ll propose to build the new tunnel by largely following the footprint of Access to the Region's Core, or ARC, a rail link under the Hudson River that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed in October for projected cost overruns.

Construction on ARC had already begun. Gateway Tunnel would pick up where that project left off—with key differences.

Like ARC, Gateway would consist of a pair tunnels with one track each. But its capacity would be less. ARC was set up to carry 25 commuter trains per hour. Gateway would be designed to allow an additional thirteen New Jersey Transit Trains and eight more Amtrak trains per hour.

And whereas ARC was supposed to terminate at platforms under Macy’s, a block east of Penn Station, Gateway would end a block to the south, nearer to street level. The block—West 30th and West 31st Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues—now mostly holds small businesses like restaurants, bars and a repair shop for musical instruments.

A staff member for an elected official familiar with the project said Amtrak, which is taking the lead on the tunnel, would have to assemble properties on the Manhattan block to make it feasible. He said on the New Jersey side, Gateway would use a hole that construction crews had already started digging for the ARC Tunnel at Tonnelle Avenue near Secaucus.

Amtrak is estimating it will take 10 years and $13.5 billion dollars to complete the project.

An important part of the work would be to raise the Portal Bridge, a notorious bottleneck between Kearny and Secaucus over the Hackensack River. Trains must now slow to cross the 100 year-old bridge, or stop altogether while it is moved to let boats pass by. A modernized bridge, along with a new tunnel’s added capacity, would speed up Amtrak’s service along the Northeast Corridor and help set the stage for future high-speed rail.

The Gateway announcement is sure to set off a round of fearsome politics.

Amtrak and the two U.S. Senators will essentially be proposing their tunnel as an alternative to an extension of the 7 subway train from Midtown Manhattan to Secaucus, which the Bloomberg administration has been pushing—and on which it just voted to spend a quarter of a million dollars for an engineering study. Will Bloomberg push back, contending the 7 train extension would be cheaper?

What will Governor Christie have to say? He and Senator Lautenberg have traded contemptuous barbs since Christie killed ARC in October.

Will the Gateway announcement affect the Federal Transit Administration’s demand that New Jersey pay back $271 million of federal funds spent for preliminary work on ARC, which Christie and his DC law firm, Patton Boggs, is fighting? One of the arguments Patton Boggs has made is that ARC-related design work and research is proving useful to other public works projects. Therefore, it needn't be refunded. If Gateway moves forward in ARC’s tracks, would Christie’s case against the FTA be strengthened?

Former Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Chairman Anthony Coscia, now on the Amtrak board of directors, is expected to join in today’s announcement. Will he nudge the deep-pocketed Authority to line up behind Gateway?

And as always, who will pay for it? If the project’s backers manage to find enough funds without pinching a single penny from New Jersey’s depleted coffers, will Governor Christie support the tunnel—holding his nose, perhaps, while crouching next to Senator Lautenberg as they each wear a hard hat and stick ceremonial shovels into the ground?

These questions and more will be raised this week, a week that the Obama Administration plans to devote to promoting infrastructure. And that raises one last question. Will Democratic Senators Menendez and Lautenberg boost their new rail initiative by prevailing on the president to express support for it, or at least say the words, “Gateway Tunnel,” in a speech? We’ll see.

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