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Commute Nightmare Awaits Amtrak and New Jersey Transit Passengers

At best, it will take seven years to build the Amtrak Gateway tunnels, the replacement of Access to the Region's Core. If one of the existing two aging tunnels has to be shut to make repairs before the project is completed, commute nightmare ensues.
November 9, 2014, 9am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"Amtrak officials are in a race against time to avoid a commuting nightmare if one of the existing 100-year old tunnels has to be closed for major repairs before new (Hudson River) tunnels are built," writes Larry Higgs of NJ Advance Media for on the calamity facing NJ Transit commuter and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor passengers accessing New York's Penn Station from New Jersey.

Train traffic would slow to a trickle, from an average of 24 to 6 trains per hour if one of the existing tunnels had to be closed. About 400 NJ Transit commuter trains a day travel through the existing tunnels, said (Amtrak president Joseph Boardman during an interview with the Star Ledger editorial board).

As we noted last month, the need to close one of the tunnels for repairs was hastened after "Amtrak released a report (in September) finding that 'salt left behind by Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters continues to weaken the tunnels’ concrete and corrode its cast iron and steel'." The findings also impact LIRR commuters accessing Penn Station.

Cost for the Amtrak Gateway "and several allied projects to New York could cost an estimated $16 billion and under the most optimistic scenario could take up to a decade to build," writes Higgins. And the cost won't be borne only by the region's commuters. "The regional economy could lose $100 million a day in economic activity, due to a shut down, Boardman said."

An estimated 50 and 80 percent [sic] of the Gateway tunnel project funding should come from the federal government, with the remainder to be divided between New Jersey, New York and Amtrak, Boardman said. The Gateway Project [PDF] includes two new tunnels under the Hudson, adding two new tracks along the corridor in New Jersey south of Newark, and construction an [sic] annex [aka Moynihan Station] to New York's Penn Station to handle additional trains.

Last month, Higgins wrote, "To do the major repair work, one tube of the two [existing] Hudson River tunnels would have to be shut down for a year, which would have severe impact on the 450 trains a day which use the tunnels. Anthony Coscia, chairman of Amtrak's board of directors, said that can only happen if the Gateway Tunnel project is built first, which would allow Amtrak to take one of the old tunnels out of service without reducing the number of trains it and NJ Transit run.

[Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update]

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Published on Thursday, November 6, 2014 in The Star-Ledger
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