Home ARC Tunnel The ghost of the ARC Tunnel haunts Christie as candidate

The ghost of the ARC Tunnel haunts Christie as candidate

by Benjamin Kabak

The ARC Tunnel as she could have been.

It’s been a rough few weeks for New Jersey Transit and Garden State rail riders. Shortly after announcing yet another massive fare hike, the agency suffered through a week that saw rush hour delays pile up due to problems with Amtrak’s North Hudson tubes. After commuters suffered through problems on four of five days last week, the agency has already announced that it does not anticipate a problem-free Monday. Riders are being asked to find alternate ways into the city, and PATH, ferries and buses will cross-honor tickets.

It’s also been a rough few weeks for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. With national polls placing him toward the bottom of the crowded field of GOP 2016 presidential hopefuls, Christie has engaged in something of a Hail Mary campaign to drum up any kind of enthusiasm for his run for the White House. At one point, he seemed like a clear front-runner before the Fort Lee traffic scandal and general voter anger toward his policy decisions grew louder and louder.

Faced with mounting frustration directed at him from his constituents over last week’s New Jersey Transit delays, Christie at first ducked the question before his aides helped him correctly level the blame at Amtrak. He then let loose a stunning display of political arrogance. He would, he claimed, build the ARC Tunnel if elected president. The Times’ Rick Rojas reported:

“If I am president of the United States, I call a meeting between the president, my secretary of transportation, the governor of New York and the governor of New Jersey and say, ‘Listen, if we are all in this even Steven, if we are all going to put in an equal share, then let’s go build these tunnels under the Hudson River,’ ” Mr. Christie said in an interview with the radio talk show host Larry Kudlow, which will be broadcast on Saturday on WABC-AM. “Then, everyone has an incentive to have the project run right, to run efficiently because everybody is on the hook.”

The governor’s comments — and his hypothetical phrasing — has attracted the attention of his critics, who say his statements emphasize how little he has done to help improve transportation. “This is not a hypothetical issue, this is a real issue, and he could be doing something about it,” said Martin Robins, the founding director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, who was the director of the tunnel project during the mid-1990s. “The question is, what has he done, what will he do in the next 18 months as the governor of New Jersey?”

In his interview comments, Christie reiterated his own long-held belief that, as he said, “New Jersey was going to be responsible for every nickel of cost overruns, which at the time was estimated to be three to five billion dollars.” He claims that he asked New York’s leaders for fiscal assistance and that they turned him down. He did not mention that the Feds had pegged the cost overruns at $1 billion; that both the feds and New York were willing to work out a deal; and that instead of reserving the money for a better-designed and fairly-funded rail tunnel, he instead sunk into a series of road projects throughout the state, leaving rail riders with nothing.

Time and again, Christie has tried to paint his ARC decision as something it wasn’t, and he even has supporters from the rail community who point to the design flaws in ARC as it was planned. The decision to send the tunnel to a dead end underneath Macy’s was the wrong one, but it wasn’t worth canceling the project and removing New Jersey’s money from a rail expansion project. Christie may have backed into a decision that was, in part, defensible, but he did it for none of the right reasons.

The Times’ editorial team wasn’t buying what Christie was selling. In a piece that unfortunately ran on Saturday and not during a more well-read day of the week, they laid the blame for trans-Hudson woes squarely on Christie’s shoulders. Their argument echoes mine:

Governor Christie originally said he stopped work on the new tunnel because it would cost his state too much money. Then, he got the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to reroute $3 billion that had been allocated for the project. Instead of a tunnel to benefit the whole region, the money went to patch Mr. Christie’s roads and bridges.

Normally, state gasoline taxes provide much of the revenue for local transportation needs. But Mr. Christie, a Republican aiming for the White House, has not wanted to raise any taxes. This refusal and his use of the tunnel funds for other purposes have kept the chokehold on transit in the Northeast. And without sufficient tax revenue, New Jersey Transit has added debt and been forced to squeeze more money from its customers. This month, it announced fares would go up an average of 9 percent on Oct. 1.

Even Mr. Christie’s commissioner of transportation, Jamie Fox, has begun working hard to get a dedicated tax to fix the state’s roads, bridges and mass transit. The governor, perhaps recognizing that he has a transportation crisis on his hands, has simply said that when it comes to revenue, “everything is on the table.” If everything really is on the table, Mr. Christie should help legislators come up with a gas tax that starts to dig the state out of its transportation mess. At the same time, he should support Amtrak and others as they start over with new plans for a tunnel under the Hudson.

When he canceled ARC, Christie did it with an eye on the national stage. Ending an expensive government project bound to benefit the more liberal northeast played well with the Tea Party at a time when they were ascendant. But now aging infrastructure is in the news, and New Jerseyans know where to point their fingers over the current failures and future problems that await on the horizon. Instead of a rail tunnel in progress with a design that could have been improved five years ago, the region has nothing but problems — which is identical to Christie’s presidential hopes. It’s no coincidence that these two issues are going hand in hand, and if Christie the governor is serious about helping solve the trans-Hudson problems, he’s not out of office yet.

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Walt Gekko July 27, 2015 - 1:17 am

Obviously, when Christie cancelled ARC, the circumstances were MUCH different than they are now. The big problem with ARC, however, was (at least at the time) that it would go to what is currently Macy’s basement and not to Penn Station itself. For it to have been truely useful in the Northeast, it would have had to find a way to either continue to Queens or go through Grand Central. Of course, that was before Sandy changed a lot of things and made it obvious that something HAS to be done, which is even more obvious now than it was even almost three years ago.

Even before Sandy, it was felt this was going to come back and bite at Christie and this could very well be the case.

What probably needs to happen is to build ONE tunnel at a time as even one tunnel will help the current situation. Building one new tunnel now if that can be done while holding off rehabbing and fixing the existing tunnels would at least allow for there to be two tunnels at all times. In that scenario, once both tunnels are rehabbed, THEN you look at building the fourth tunnel that is needed.

Not perfect, but probably the best way to handle this.

Justin Samuels July 27, 2015 - 1:46 am

Building one tunnel is just a terribly poor compromise.

Christie (or the next governor) is going to have to bite the bullet on this and raise taxes. NJ needs to help fund the Gateway tunnel. Christie canceled the ARC project for all the wrong reasons. The man is a corrupt jerk!

Walt Gekko July 27, 2015 - 1:48 am

Actually, it was suggested elsewhere to build ONE tunnel, but big enough to handle two tracks. That might be the best compromise, especially if you can put both needed tracks in the same tunnel.

F Jones July 28, 2015 - 5:54 pm

No. a single tunnel will actually have a larger cross section than 2 tunnels. As well 2 smaller tunnel boring machines can proceed faster and a breakdown of one will not shut down the tunneling. 2 tunnels allow for the time when a train might catch fire. The second tunnel gives passengers emergency egress that is not possible with one tunnel. The one tunnel Idea is another example of putting all eggs in one basket. Note: Almost all rail tunnels whether light rail, subway, heavy rail passenger and / or freight USA , European , Japan, China, etc are all going the 2 tunnel or more construction

Alon Levy July 27, 2015 - 6:56 am

First, building a double-track tunnel is equivalent in terms of capacity to building two single-track tunnels. Usually, tunnel builders prefer twin bores over a larger single bore, because with twin bores it’s possible to shut down one track at a time.

Second, the anger at Christie, at least from people who have followed the ARC debate, is that he canceled ARC when he could have changed it. Christie had the authority to cancel the cavern, and force a change to Alt G, or Alt S, or the version of Alt P with the connection to the existing station rather than the cavern. He chose to grandstand.

Walt Gekko July 27, 2015 - 7:39 am

In a perfect world, you build two individual tunnels with separate bores, which is what SHOULD happen, however, this go-around if it means getting the project done, then it may be the best option to build a two-track tunnel if doing two separate tunnels would take too long or be cost-prohibitive.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 4:21 pm

Walt, I don’t think it’s clear that a single bore would be cheaper than twin bores. In fact, given the near-universal preference for twin bores, I’d say that twin bores are almost certainly cheaper at equal level of safety. It’s also possible that twin bores are more maneuverable under the infrastructure on the New York side of the Hudson, since the tunnels would be shorter.

I suppose a double-O tube, like the tunnel carrying the 2 under the Harlem River, is a possibility. But I don’t know how much money it saves over doing it as two separate bores. If safety requirements mandate an escape route, as they do for longer tunnels, then it’s more expensive at equivalent safety level, because with twin bores, each bore can be used as an escape tunnel for the other.

Bolwerk July 27, 2015 - 9:33 am

Re your second paragraph, you’re actually one of the few people I’ve ever seen say that. It’s something people are stunningly unaware of or just shrug off. Or their denial mechanisms are just that strong.

Joe Steindam July 27, 2015 - 9:52 am

I am actually unclear on Alon’s point. Although he had the purse strings in his hand, I’m unsure what Christie could have done to change the project. Recall the beginnings of the tunnels (the portals on the NJ side) were already being dug. Reorienting the tunnels to Penn Station would have required significant changes in the design for the Manhattan end, which would have been a large cost from a design perspective, but certainly less than expected construction costs. It would have probably delayed the project considerably too, although I guess in hindsight, a delayed tunnel is better than no tunnel in the works.

Bolwerk July 27, 2015 - 10:14 am

You’re right, but Christie could have tried. It really would have just taken saying something. Trying and failing would have been more credible than his chosen course of action, which was basically just shortcutting right to failure.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 4:38 pm

The beginnings of the tunnel were neutral as to what the nature of the connection would be: Alt P-cavern, Alt P-basic, Alt P-both, Alt G, Alt S, Gateway. The redesign would have indeed cost money and delayed the project, but would the delay really be bigger than the delay involved in digging the cavern?

eo July 27, 2015 - 10:45 am

People continue to make the assumption that there was a better alternative to the ARC. There was not one then, there is not one now. The ARC was a stub ended station with two tunnels leading to it. Penn South is a stub ended station with two tunnels leading to it. Accidentally there are another two (the old ones, but their usefulness is only marginal). If one considers how Penn South will operate one realizes that only NJTransit will use it — LIRR cannot get to it from the east and Amtrak has no use for stub tracks. All Amtrak trains even if they come from the south and do not continue north need to go to Sunnyside for cleaning/maintenance/refueling(Empire diesels). Amtrak has no yard on the Jersey side to do any of that work, there is not even an old yard which could be repurposed. Given this the dominant patern of operation will be that the two new tunnels are used one in each direction to feed the stub tracks(old and new) with only occasionally feeding a track above number 4 in the existing station. The reason is that going from the new south tube involves crossing so many other tracks that it will be avoided at all costs whenever possible because of the delays it causes (if you have no idea what I am talking about think about a train leaving the existing track 1 through the north tube: the train blocks all tracks to the south so not only you cannot have another train leaving at the same time, you cannot have another train arriving from NJ until the one heading south has cleared).

So Penn South is only marginally better than ARC: its two tunnels are only occasionally useful to the existing station and the Amtrak trains. Its non-negligible advantage is that it is not a deep station so it is bound to be cheaper, but even that is not a big factor as the real estate costs for that block largely offset the cost savings from the shallower excavation.

Anything that goes to Grand Central is now dead due to ESA unless you are willing to build new deep caverns under the ESA caverns or under Madison Ave. The ESA tunnels are too small for anything other than LIRR. Even Metro-North’s trains will not fit there, not to talk about NJ multilevels and the needed space for catenary. What remains is the argument of connecting the tunnel to the lower level of Metro-North. That will require demolition of the lower passenger concourse (not a big loss in itself, but good luck getting that permitted ever under historical preservation laws). On top of that to make this work requires through-running which seems as a long shot even with the history of cooperation between Metro-North and NJTransit west of Hudson. If it was about cooperation, they would already be running Penn Access because Metro-North could cough up some money and have NJT’s equipment run up to New Heaven a few times a day — they are not doing that, they are waiting for the LIRR to reduce its Penn use in order to get the slots into the station. So no, through-running through Grand Central is not going to happen in our lifetime with the current provincial thinking of each of the two states and agencies (you can even say that the ARC was the vistim of such a provincial thinking).

With deep sorrow, I have to conclude that Alt-G or anything going to GCT will not happen because even if somehow it makes it to the drawing board beyond the engineering difficulties, it will fall to cost cutting measures. Indeed I suspect that even Penn South will fall to such measures and when all is said and done about 25 years from now we will have two new tunnels to the existing Penn and that would be it. So the only good thing that could have come out of Cristie would have been to cancel the ARC, forget about a new station and just build two tunnels into the exisitng Penn. He could have come out ahead doing that — the commuters would have had two new tunnels, the money would have been enough (avoiding the expensive new station caverns) and he could have still claimed cutting government waste by reducing the scope of the project. He got carried away by the Tea Party opposition to anything that Obama supported and now will pay the price. It is unfortunate that NJ will pay the price with him too.

Ryan July 27, 2015 - 11:11 am

The lower level tracks already extend a few feet beneath the lower concourse and are positioned to allow for continuation south without blowing up the concourse. Maybe you have to temporarily shutter it for underpinning work and such, but the lower concourse is emphatically not an issue.

johndmuller July 27, 2015 - 8:37 pm

Agreed that getting under GCT’s lower level is not at all a show stopper, there remain numerous real issues to connecting Penn & GCT.

1) Threading the maze of IRT tracks and passageways (3 lines, 9 or 10 tracks). According to the Alt G plan, the southbound Lex ave local track would have been relocated, for at least some distance around 42 St.; hard to imagine a way to do that without serious disruptions.

2) As GCT is already nearly maxed out in rush hour, this new traffic would seem to require additional tracks going north; while the Park Ave. tunnel seems to be theoretically amenable to widening and the above ground viaduct portion could probably have a two-track upper level added on, the transition between tunnel and viaduct would be tricky, the Harlem River bridge would need a rebuild, and likewise the switching networks in the terminal and in the Bronx would need to be somewhat reworked (did I mention disruption).

3) Buildings along the way, particularly near 42nd St. and wherever the route would turn south to Penn (31st St.?) would need to be underpinned and/or purchased and demolished (disruption and $$$).

4) Other infrastructure (various utilities including steam lines major water supply lines) would need to be coddled and/or moved.

This stuff could likely all be done, but does anyone have the WILL and the Political Capital to undergo the abuse from all the affected parties?

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 4:48 pm

1. Indeed, this is one of the most difficult parts of the plan. However, I do not think this is why Alt G was dropped from consideration. (Remember, the full study was never released to the public, and Stephen Smith’s multi-year attempts to FOIA it were met with stalling.)

2. First, Penn Station Access would divert trains from Grand Central. But second, suppose arguendo that the Park Avenue Tunnel is at capacity. Why does this limit through-running in any way? Through-running does not require adding more trains across the Hudson or through the Park Avenue Tunnel; it merely requires combining trans-Hudson trips with Park Avenue trips.

3. The tunnel would to my understanding go under Park, under the subway, and then transition to 31st. EMUs are capable of steep enough grades that the transition to 31st could be done at a depth of 30 meters or, in a true crunch, 40. This is below the foundations of buildings in that area – if I remember correctly, the Empire State Building’s foundations extend 6 stories down, so about 20 meters. Worst case scenario, some demolitions would be required; 31st and 5th is not the most desirable part of Midtown – the only supertall there is the Empire State Building, which is nowhere near where the transition would be.

4. Actually, Water Tunnel 1 is very deep, so a relatively shallow connection would be clear of it. (The ARC cavern would’ve been 55 meters below ground.)

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 5:12 pm

People with detailed information and sophisticated enginneering software said it would be risky. If you want to listen to conspiracy theories about how the New York Central hates the Pennsylvania Railroad or how Metro North hates the LIRR and they both think NJTranist is awful, go ahead.

Water Tunnel 1 is the only water supply for many many people. It’s why Water Tunnel 3 is being built. It’s perfectly reasonable for the NYCDEC to ask that digging be postponed for a few years until it’s shut down for maintenance.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 9:19 pm

People with detailed information and sophisticated engineering software said it was a risk, but did not say that this was why they rejected the option. Ultimately, the risk was financial – difficult construction would require expensive takings.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 8:23 am

Correct. They actually said that they were sure it could be constructed, but were worried about buying the real estate. That’s what the final report said… I see no reason to disbelieve them.

eo July 27, 2015 - 9:50 am

Building one tunnel with two tracks is not really cheaper than two separate bores. Even though the diameter does not double, you do end up with a larger TBM and the larger versions of these tend to have more problems (see Seattle!). There is substantial experience worldwide with smaller bored tunnels, not so much with large bores — even the Eurotunnel is two separate bores (plus a service tunnel). You also end up drilling more empty space that you cannot use both below and above the tracks. In fact you need to backfill the bottom space for the invert to place the tracks on a flat surface. The one advantage of a single bore is that you can put your interlockings wherever you want. A major disadvantage is that if anything happens to the one track then you end up slowing down the trains on the remaining track in order to protect personnel so you lose more than 50% of your capacity while with separate bores you can run track speed in the second tunnel (and this does not even account for having to wait for the trains to get out of one end before sending anything in the other direction).

Jeff A July 31, 2015 - 7:47 am

The statement “…..it would go to what is currently Macy’s basement and not to Penn Station itself. For it to have been truely useful in the Northeast, it would have had to find a way to either continue to Queens or go through Grand Central” is not correct.

Macy’s is on the north side of 34th Street between 7th and Broadway. Portions of the underground passages already exist for NYC subways on the south side of 34th Street; an underground connection to them was to be created, so as to provide passage from 7th Ave to Herald Square/PATH/NYC Subway.


The proposed tunnels were to terminate at Moynihan Station (currently USPS on 8th Ave), which was to be converted in to a mixed use space for NJT, Amtrak, public and private event space, etc, similar to what has been done at Grand Central Terminal.


This was to alleviate a portion of the burden on the rat hole that is Penn Station. Tunnels were going to link the the two western stations across 7th Ave over to the PATH station at Herald Square.

Additional access to Queens is currently provided by the subway lines N/Q/R and the F/M, which terminate at Herald Square. Access to GST is from the 7 train at 42nd Street.


Chris Christie latched on to the “Macy’s basement” comment because his wife made it, and he found it useful to discredit the project. Unfortunately, it is 100% false. There are numerous drawings and diagrams to dispute this (including the one associated with this article). CC was arguing the tax burdens and cost overruns that would be on the state of NJ, which may or may not be true. The current conventional wisdom is that there would have been minimal cost over runs (maybe, I doubt it), and the tax burden would have been more equally distributed to both states.

THIS is where all of the fact checking energy should be focused.

Larry Littlefield July 27, 2015 - 7:12 am

The people of New Jersey need to look at the bright side. For many years, decades in fact, the state had a low tax rate for the services it provided.

Made possible not only by having relatively few dependent poor people (these were left behind in NYC and Philly), but also by underinvesting in infrastructure and underfunding public employee pensions.


So sure things could become truly hellish, with no end in sight for decade. But think of the great deal enjoyed by all those people heading for Florida or the grave, that those who followed are paying for now! Wasn’t it worth it?

Even better news. NJ is but an extreme example of what Generation Greed has done to the U.S. And NYC is actually worse.

Leonid July 27, 2015 - 7:42 am

I live in NYC and work in Newark and I travel though Newark Penn Station. That place is crumbling in front of my eyes. It really should not operate in the current condition. The lift bridge from that station is about to fall apart. I am kind of waiting for that text from Path or everyone at work saying that bridge is in the river. But everyone talks about New York Penn station.

Hank July 27, 2015 - 8:08 am

What the bridge looks like to your eyes and what it looks like to an experienced structural engineer are very different. That bridge is perfectly fine. Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, however, is in bad shape, both structurally and functionally.

Larry Littlefield July 27, 2015 - 9:14 am

Amtrak say the portal bridge is fine. It is the lift that is failing and obsolete.

The question is, could NJ buy out everything north of the bridge on the Hackensack River that requires the bridge to be lifted, and convince the Feds to close the river to upstream traffic.

Nathanael July 27, 2015 - 2:44 pm

Dock Bridge over the Passaic River (right next to Newark) doesn’t open very often for ship traffic. I’m not sure what they usually transport.

Passaic River cleanup and dredging will require barge movements for the forseeable future, but they can be made “low profile” and go under the bridge.


As for Portal Bridge over the Hackensack, there will be barge movements across there for the forseeable future, and a lot of them. There is no chance of putting a low fixed bridge there.


The sludge barges set the absolute minimum height limit for a fixed bridge over the Hackensack.

Larry Littlefield July 27, 2015 - 6:15 pm

“The Portal Bridge opened 90 times during the past four months of 2014, according to Amtrak. Of those movements, 75 were for the shipments of sludge.”

“The measurement that matters, of course, is height. The pilothouse of the Turecamo Girls sits five stories above the water. That’s too tall to fit under the Portal Bridge, which is 26 feet above the river’s high water mark.”

So how tall is the barge?

This makes it seem as if the problem could be solved with a new, custom made tug and perhaps a new, custom-made barge or two. Instead of loading one big barge once a week, they could have smaller barges going up and down the river every day.

adirondacker12800 July 27, 2015 - 6:58 pm

So we should just wait until Portal Bridge falls down and then have everyone swim across the Hudson until it’s replaced years later? Assuming the new tunnels get built they need a new bridge for the new tunnels.

lawhawk July 27, 2015 - 9:01 am

Christie showed how unserious he was about mass transit and the plight of commuters when he co-opted the Port Authority’s ARC funds to plug the gap in his state’s transportation trust fund. That’s opened up a can of worms with a SEC investigation ongoing.

Rather than dedicate those funds to getting Gateway funded or to follow through with one of the preferred alternatives that would allow through running trains instead of dead-ending under Macy’s, Christie took the money and ran.

But the fault isn’t solely with Christie. Gov. Cuomo aided and abetted Christie with that decision since it takes the two governors to tango on Port Authority funds. And we’ve repeatedly seen Cuomo screw over commuters in favor of roads, and Cuomo’s tried to pull the wool over people’s eyes with the new TZB project, and making sure that mass transit would not be a part of the initial build (citing expense).

Bolwerk July 27, 2015 - 9:38 am

Paterson was governor of NY when Christie canceled ARC. Cuomo wasn’t governor until 2011.

lawhawk July 27, 2015 - 9:47 am

You’re right. Christie began the move on the money in 2010. The money shifts from the Port Authority to cover the Pulaski/Wittpenn bridge rehabs was done in 2011. Cuomo had the opportunity to stop it and did nothing.


adirondacker12800 July 27, 2015 - 11:46 am

send the tunnel to a dead end underneath Macy’s

Until the NYCDEC closes down Water Tunnel 1. Which they are planning to do sometime in the 2020s. After Water Tunnel 3 is complete, providing the capacity to shut down Water Tunnel 1.



Why doesn’t the new tunnel connect directly to existing Penn Station? And why doesn’t the project continue to Grand Central Terminal?

Although the original concept included connecting the Mass Transit Tunnel to Penn Station New York, engineers found that the environmental impacts and geotechnical challenges were simply too great to overcome, including the need to disrupt large amount of surface property in Manhattan, as well as the Hudson River. Moreover, no route to the east can currently be built because it would interfere with New York’s Water Tunnel No. 1. In the future, however, that will not be a barrier, once the city completes the ongoing construction of its Water Tunnel No. 3. The Mass Transit Tunnel project has specifically been designed to allow expansion to the east in the future, as funding, finances and other conditions permit.

JJJJJ July 27, 2015 - 11:56 am

On the plus side, the fact that NJTransit has the whole cross-honoring system in place is pretty cool. Most agencies like to pretend they exist in complete isolation. The cross-honoring includes public PATH, private buses, and private ferries. Shows someone with a brain at some point reached out and had some nice contracts written up.

The downside is the assumption that you know what cross-honoring means. They love to say “cross honoring in effect” but the website has zero information on what that means. If youre new to NJ or not a daily rider, well, thats your own fault.

SEAN July 27, 2015 - 12:21 pm

Private carrier lines such as Decamp don’t own their busses – NJ Transit does. That’s why cross honoring can work on a dime.

JJJJ July 27, 2015 - 12:52 pm

Thatsa good point. However, I dont believe the ferries have any NJT funding.

adirondacker12800 July 27, 2015 - 1:40 pm

As private companies they can decide that the goodwill is worth the itty bitty amount of money it’s going to cost them. Having standees on the boats doesn’t cost them much. And riders who never considered it, ride and may become regular passengers.

Douglas John Bowen July 27, 2015 - 12:10 pm

Say “he even had supporters from the rail community” and the statement is more accurate.

Those of us who, in the end and after 10 years of struggling for better, advocated pulling the plug on ARC were under no illusion re: Mr. Christie’s intentions or overall disdain for passenger rail. We were (and are) well aware of the devil’s bargain we had to strike.

For at least some of us New Jerseyans (and rail riders), the result still is worth it. And in a somewhat perverse way, the current crisis is something all of us (including Mr. Kabak) saw coming; now our collective job is to turn it into something positive.

eo July 27, 2015 - 2:17 pm

I fail to see how it was “worth it”. You will not get a new tunnel opened in less that 25 years, so unless you are quite young you will not get to use it during your working years. Somehow I fail to see how the delays are “worth it” to any current commuter. Was ARC ideal? No, it was not, but it was ready to go and the money, other than whatever Cristie claimed as overruns, was found. ARC had its problems, but making a stand against it means nothing will happen anytime soon unless one of the existing tunnels fails catastophically. Our political system is such that once you miss the opportunity to do something, it is not happening during your generation. The only time when stuff happens is after disasters such as Sandy.

Nathanael July 27, 2015 - 2:46 pm

Christie could have redirected the money for ARC to other rail projects. Instead, he burned it on the Pulaski Skyway. NO rail advocate would approve of this.

Douglas John Bowen December 29, 2016 - 2:49 pm

And few if any rail advocate we’re aware of championed spending those funds on the Pulaski Skyway.

Our political power was finite — and enough to influence stopping one bad project. Doesn’t automatically mean we could stop every bad project, or control redirected funds.

You take the victories you can achieve. NJ-ARP remains proud of contributing to ARC’s demise, however reluctantly. And yes, we are rail advocates, one’s contrary belief notwithstanding.

Adirondacker12800 December 29, 2016 - 3:15 pm

Instead of a stubby ended terminal north of the existing station you are getting a stubby ended terminal south of the station. At least a decade later and at twice the price. With slightly less capacity.

SEAN July 27, 2015 - 12:15 pm

Don’t under estimate the pull of the T party & there desire not to spend money on infrastructure or anything that requires a subsity.

Oh sure they aren’t winning elections on mass, but that isn’t the tactic being employed. First they are destroying their enemies namely other repubs who do not share their values. Think of it as edition by subtraction. They will come after dems later. Second as they gain recognition, the truth of their movement will show it self & infact that may have already happened with trump leeding in recent presidential polls .

Christie’s mishandling of the ARC project for political points has absolutely come back to haunt him. In other states votors need to ask them selves – (if Christie was willing to do something on the state level such as the scandal over the GWB closure, could you imagine what he could do on the national or international level?) Plus his temperament would cause a problem on the world stage & that is the scariest thought of all.

Rob July 27, 2015 - 1:24 pm

‘When he canceled ARC, Christie did it with an eye on the national stage. Ending an expensive government project bound to benefit the more liberal northeast played well with the Tea Party at a time when they were ascendant.

Ben, I greatly respect your transport acumen, but you psychiatric skills not so much. You could even turn it around and say that he did it to benefit lib jersey by sparing them the huge financial liability.

‘But now aging infrastructure is in the news, and New Jerseyans know where to point their fingers over the current failures’ — yeah, but it’s not where you think. The state has been under mostly Dem control for decades, and these probs long predate Christie’s inauguration.

adirondacker12800 July 27, 2015 - 2:56 pm

The state has been under mostly Dem control for decades,

No it hasn’t unless you want to call Christie “It was the stuff floating in the air that was bad” Todd Whitman a Democrat. Or Tom Kean. I’m not gonna go look for a chart of who has controlled the legislature over the past few decades.

and these probs long predate Christie’s inauguration.

And the last Governor, a Democrat, was trying to fix them.

wise infrastructure July 27, 2015 - 1:33 pm

if two tunnels are cheaper one big one then build the tunnels far enough apart to have the station between them like the WTC type path loop station.
Have the station under 9th Avenue (no subway but far west), 7th Avenue (duplicating Penn Station and dealing with the IRT which is not too deep), or 5th Avenue (which would require dealing with the water tunnel but has no subway and is smack in the middle of the island).

Trains could come in under a street in the 30’s a6nd exit via a street in the high 40’s.

Given that there would be no trains crossing paths, a 2 level station with each level having 4 tracks served by 2 island platforms would provide sufficient capacity.(More capacity than ESA where trains must cross paths.)

LLQBTT July 27, 2015 - 1:51 pm

All Gov. Christie did was spend “other people’s money” elsewhere. There is no savings here, fiscal discipline or austerity. The same $3bn is being spent anyway.

Nathanael July 27, 2015 - 2:47 pm

Yep, he redirected it from rail to roads. 😛

SEAN July 27, 2015 - 6:24 pm

And let us remember that money was ours, but has been redirected via the Chinese & being loaned back.

adirondacker12800 July 27, 2015 - 7:01 pm

The majority of the Federal Government’s debt is held jn the U.S.

Brooklynite July 27, 2015 - 9:14 pm

The future needs to be anticipated. If we’re building a tunnel already, make it four tracks. The subway will need to go to NJ eventually. Think about it – in the 80s, with funding very limited, they still managed to build 63 St to accommodate the LIRR. Why can’t we do something similar today?

adirondacker12800 July 27, 2015 - 10:03 pm

The part under the East River was completed in 1972.

Walt Gekko July 28, 2015 - 1:24 am

If you are able to do TWO two-track tunnels (four tracks total) that would be great as that would be a huge benefit long-term. It would likely depend on cost to do it, but it would be very forward-thinking.

Brooklynite July 28, 2015 - 7:44 pm

One four track tunnel is cheaper and easier than two two-track tunnels, simply because you’re only building one tunnel. In fact, adding two tracks to a proposed tunnel does not come close to doubling the cost.

@Adirondacker thank you for the correction.

wise infrastructure July 28, 2015 - 3:33 pm

maybe the way to go is build tunnel wide enough for 2 #7 tracks side by side with no obstruction in between the tracks.

Then lay the #7 tracks with one railroad track over-layed dead center.

In emergency periods when one of the existing 2 Hudson rail tunnels is either blocked or is out of service for rehab work, use the new tunnel for as a one directional railroad tunnel to substitute for it and have #7 service terminate on the west side.

In all other periods use the tunnel for #7 service to NJ.

This will:
*allow east side access for NJ users during regular periods
*allow near normal functioning of penn station when a tunnel is being worked on
*enable a large combined bus and rail station to be built in NJ serviced by the #7 saving tremendous money on a Penn Station II and a new large PA bus terminal

the savings could justify such a project.

If twin boors are cheaper, boor one to railroad width and one to subway width. this would eliminate the need for a 3rd set of tracks.

Brooklynite July 28, 2015 - 7:45 pm

The FRA would have a fit over this arrangement. Furthermore, the entire point is that the two current tunnels are at capacity so a third must be available twice every weekday. The 7 won’t be cut back to the West Side every rush hour.

F Jones July 28, 2015 - 6:31 pm

Several misconceptions here.
1. Amtrak Gateway tunnel construction has already started as the area between 8th avenue and 10th is getting a tunnel box built now so when the new buildings are built above there will not be any problem for construction.
2. Access from Gateway to the present tracks at Penn station will access some tracks probably 1 – 9. However the present North river tunnels appear unable to access the New Penn south location.
3. Present plans for Penn south track appears to be able to access East river tunnels 3 &4 ( 2 south )
4. Amtrak’s long range plans call for 2 new East river tunnels ( 5 & 6 ). Completion will be waiting for Water tunnel 3 to open and water tunnel 1 closed for repair. However the tunnels could be completed under the East river and the short distance from Penn south to those tunnels would be started when water tunnel 1 closed.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 8:19 pm

Water Tunnel 3 is scheduled to be completed in 2021. Long before Amtrak completes anything.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 9:21 pm

Ad 3, where do you see this? The drawings I saw on railroad.net had the Penn Station South tracks stub-ending, without any East River Tunnel access.


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