Home Gateway Tunnel Following Feds’ request, action on a trans-Hudson tunnel hinges on dollars

Following Feds’ request, action on a trans-Hudson tunnel hinges on dollars

by Benjamin Kabak

Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, has urged New York and New Jersey officials to take action on the need for a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel.

It has been particularly difficult of late to ignore the mounting problems with the Northeast’s vital rail system. After a week of extensive delays plaguing trains attempting to cross the Hudson River and a weekend of political grandstanding from Gov. Chris Christie, The Times ran a big front-page article on the aging rail infrastructure. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, to prove the point, a brief power outage in Amtrak’s Manhattan-bound tube led to delays as trains had to be single-tracked into and out of Penn Station for a brief period of time. In other words, the need for some sort of action on a trans-Hudson tunnel has never been more obvious.

Enter Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. In the long wake of Christie’s decision to cancel ARC and as New York and New Jersey have played a game of political chicken over formulating and funding plans for a new trans-Hudson Tunnel, Foxx has emerged as more critical voice on the process. At a conference last week, he called a new tunnel “the most important project in the country right now that’s not happening” and called further inaction “almost criminal.” Now he wants the region’s leaders to find a way forward, but it will all boil down to one key concern: money.

Earlier this week, Foxx formally requested a meeting amongst the feds, Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to plan a new tunnel. The Times has a copy of the letter request, and in it, Foxx noted that the current administration “remain[s] committed to advancing needed repairs and replacements” for a new rail tunnel. Discussing the fed’s support for Amtrak’s Gateway tunnel and calling “the condition of the trans-Hudson tunnels…a major threat to the region,” Foxx wrote:

We are willing once again to explore Federal financial assistance. The Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak have been in discussions about possible federal financing tools that could get the project started, but the project will not become a reality without your active participation and willingness to prioritize it. Neither Amtrak nor your individual States, acting alone, can replace these tunnels. It will take all of us working together.

Foxx’s letter comes on the heels of a similar missive directed toward the Secretary’s office concerning state inaction from New York and New Jersey, and the request from the feds has so far received a response from the region that straddles the border between a lukewarm embrace and outright hostility. Christie stated that he and Cuomo would discuss with Foxx “if we can have a real conversation about how this is going to be funded and the equity for both states and the people of the region.” But separately, the Port Authority, which wasn’t an addressee of Foxx’s letter, responded harshly to the overtures: WNYC reported:

On Tuesday it was the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which the governors control in a shaky power-sharing arrangement, wrote back, even though he was not addressed in the original letter…The letter by Port Authority Chairman John Degnan letter was testy, at one point noting that the U.S. transportation secretary had failed to accept the Port Authority’s invitation to speak at a special transportation summit in May that it co-hosted. (Foxx sent his undersecretary, Peter Rogoff, instead.)

At another point, Degnan wrote, “If discussions aimed at furthering this project are to be fruitful, we need to better understand whether adequate funding can now be made available to move this project forward.” Degnan also said the Port Authority “would obviously” need the federal government to expedite the environmental review process to get the project done quickly.

The PA, an important stakeholder in this process, seems to want a guarantee from the feds that they’ll chip in more than $3 billion — the supposed cap on their ARC Tunnel contributions — for Gateway or any replacement trans-Hudson Tunnels. It seems evident then that while Christie himself accepted Foxx’s overtures, the Port Authority letter at the least carries with it his imprimatur and Christie’s constant complains, accurate or not, that grew out of his decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel. The politics of the Port Authority certainly allow a governor to send one message while his underlings send another, and that’s what’s happening here.

So where does this go from here? As always, it’s about the money. In an extensive piece of news analysis, Herb Jackson of The Record delves into the key financial questions involving the two northeast states and the federal government. New Jersey’s move to shift ARC dollar and nearly empty its state transportation fund following the tunnel is under investigation by both the SEC and Manhattan DA, and it’s not clear, short of raising the gas tax, where Garden State money would come from. Amtrak is hoping Congress will reform its economics to allow it to invest Northeast Corridor profits in its own capital plan, and New York State is coming to grips with the MTA’s own spending request at the same time the tunnel plan is percolating.

It’s a game of political intrigue and one without an obvious end. Yet, as Foxx has said, the region can’t wait much longer. It’s going to take true leadership and some economic sacrifices to see this project through. Can Cuomo and Christie meet the feds on this one? The region’s future and their legacies may depend on it.

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vanshnookenraggen July 29, 2015 - 3:59 am

This is obviously all about politics but what is it the players really want? Christie wanted to seem like a strong Republican leader by shutting down ARC as a way to fight big government but now that looks shortsighted. Cuomo… uhh , he hates trains? IDK. Christie has more to lose but Cuomo just seems hell bent on doing nothing for transit.

JJJJ July 29, 2015 - 10:08 am

Trains tend to get in the way of his limo. Propose a new limo bridge or limo tunnel and watch the billions flow

brianvan (@brianvan) July 29, 2015 - 11:23 am

Even worse, Cuomo can’t be convinced to support a project of ANY type if it makes a rival – something Cuomo has no shortage of – look good in the process. Obviously the primary prerequisite of any proposal before Cuomo is that it has to make HIM look good, but he tends to reject ideas that might give power to a competitor.

And, bizarrely, Gov. Christie (being from the neighboring state, from a different party, being the opposite pole of a set of forces governing the Port Authority) is NOT seen as a rival by Gov. Cuomo. The most hopeful factor for a new Gateway tunnel getting Port Authority & NY state support is the idea that Christie would be asking Cuomo for the support as a favor. If anyone else asked, the answer in 5 minutes would be a resounding “NO”

John-2 July 29, 2015 - 8:03 am

It’s probably going to take at least an extended, if not long-term, outage of one of the two existing Hudson River tubes to crate the crisis mode needed to get the two state governments to act. But at least with the Amtrak Gateway option, the new tunnels’ through-running ability at Penn Station offers up the chance to pull other states and their politicians along the Northeast Corridor into the fray, in a way the ARC option did not (ARC might have opened up more space for more through-running trains in the existing Hudson tubes, but the new tunnels themselves would only have served commuters going to and from New Jersey).

JJJJ July 29, 2015 - 10:10 am

Would be interesting to see what a tunnel closure does to property values. Collapsing prices in the mansion hills of Jersey, where a 30 minute commute becomes 1+ hour with crush loads? Maybe price spikes in north Manhattan?

tacony July 29, 2015 - 11:12 am

Continued movement of employment out into suburban New Jersey, to avoid the use of transit altogether, which has already been going on for a while now? Nobody in the “mansion hills” of North Jersey wants to live in Washington Heights. They’ll move their offices before they move their homes.

The whole “let the suburbs rot and they’ll come back crying!” mentality in the New York area should be tempered by what happened in much of the rest of the country, where during the mid-20th century the mode shift went to cars and employment went to the suburbs. It never happened in New York to such an extent, but it still very much could if we have the mentality that we should just allow suburban transit to fall apart. We’d have a weakened employment base in Manhattan and stronger satellite suburban business centers where everybody drives to work. That’s basically what you have today in LA, the Bay Area, Atlanta, Houston, even Boston and Philadelphia.

Jon July 29, 2015 - 12:17 pm

Goldman Sachs attempted to move their equity traders to their then-brand new Jersey City tower. The traders flat out refused. Goldman eventually stuffed it with back-office people.

Don’t discount the prestige factor of having a Manhattan office.

Tower18 July 29, 2015 - 4:15 pm

And who was it, RBS I think, that built a brand new trading floor in Stamford, only to concede defeat earlier this year, leaving the building mostly unused, or soon to be.

Tower18 July 29, 2015 - 4:16 pm

All that to say, if one can’t make it work in Jersey City and Stamford, it won’t work.

EgoTripExpress July 29, 2015 - 8:28 pm

It was UBS. Yeah, their own Actuaries found out that whatever tax breaks they got from Connecticut, didn’t amount to the potential revenue they missed out on when the top-flight talent they tried to recruit had no interest in a reverse-commute.

AG July 30, 2015 - 6:19 pm

Both RBS and UBS in Stamford… Both right next to Metro North. Both heavily downsized. They even sent some staff back to Manhattan. Stamford is feeling the pain now.

Alex July 29, 2015 - 12:30 pm

Agreed that it wouldn’t be the mansion hills that would be impacted, rather it would be the middle and upper-middle class railroad towns that line the NJ Transit branches. Many folks decamp from NYC for either more space or more affordability count on their relatively painless commute on the train. Those housing prices would definitely take a hit if 45 minute commutes turned into 90 minutes across the board.

As for businesses moving out of Manhattan because of it, it’s unlikely, at least directly. NJ rail commuters only makes up one minority portion of the workforce in Manhattan. The rest of course live in the city, Long Island, Westchester, and CT. You might have a few smaller companies make the move, but bigger companies are very unlikely to move out specifically due to a tunnel closure. And in fact, many companies that compete for younger talent are more inclined to become transit-oriented today, not less. NYC would suffer many types of pain if there’s an extended tunnel closure, but I doubt losing major employers is among them.

Justin Samuels July 29, 2015 - 2:42 pm

The industries that NYC has had growth in are tourism, education, tech, film, and tv. People who participate in those industries come to NYC because it is NYC. They aren’t interested in Jersey.

So no NYC would not be dramatically affected if the NJ transit tunnels had major issues.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 2:53 pm

Tourists come from somewhere and the ones that use the tunnels wouldn’t be able to get to NYC. Or the students, educators, lobbyists, laywers etc. And some of the people all those long distance travelers are coming to see live in New Jersey. They wouldn’t be able to get to work to see those outtatowners.

Eric July 30, 2015 - 10:19 am

Not everything is about “growth”. Many more people work in “non-growing” industries with stable employment rates than in “growing” ones. If the tunnels have issues, a lot of those stable jobs could be lost. And because the industries are not growing, they would be unlikely to come back once the tunnel issue is addressed.

SEAN July 29, 2015 - 3:20 pm


If this were the `1980’s, mode share would favor cars over transit & company location scouts would be looking for suburban office campuses. Today that mindset has totally flipped. Many large & midsize employers want nothing to do with car dependent suburbia & instead have gravitated to office space near transit to retain 20 & 30-somethings. Look at Jersey City & Stamford as two examples outside NYC. Even New Brunswick & downtown Newark have a concentration of office towers near their train stations.

SEAN July 29, 2015 - 8:04 am

Take notice – if this was about funding wars in the ME, there wouldn’t be concerns about money. However since this is about transit & NYC in particular, suddenly funds are scarce & if you want any money for infrastructure projects, be prepared to fight for it.

Larry Greenfield July 29, 2015 - 8:34 am

This is what happens when the governors of New York and New Jersey can’t cooperate. Given their history in managing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the feds are right to intervene. The stakes are too great not to.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 10:52 am

Not cooperating? My answer to that is imagining a Thomas Nast-style caricature cartoon where one of the governors holds a terrified Statue of Liberty (representing NYC) down while the other tries forcing her skirt up.

Jedman67 August 3, 2015 - 10:39 am

Very disturbing, and unfortunately accurate imagery. Cuomo and Christie care about themselves only; the Port Authority exists to waste money on poorly planned projects (the WTC PATH station was necessary; the $400 million sculpture and $1 billion fancy station was extravagant and wasteful). Cost overruns are borne by the agency, not the contractors. Pork practically oozes out of the PA in both states. Cronyism, bureaucratic mismanagement and wasteful spending are par for the course when not a single PA project has ever come on time and on budget.

A new tunnel is absolutely necessary; but unless the Fed essentially forces NY and NJ to pony up nothing will happen, the politicians will see to that and blame everyone but themselves.

eo July 29, 2015 - 8:48 am

It is clear what is going on:

1. The Feds do not want to put too much money in ($3B seems to be their limit) because they know they cannot get more through Congress. They would be lucky to get even the $3B.
2. Cuomo does not want to put in any money because very few NY voters use the tunnels — probably about 5,000-6,000 people from Rockland and Orange counties.
3. Christie has no money and does not want to raise the gas tax.
4. The Port Authority does not want to write a blank check even though they clearly are willing to contribute a large sum. They really have no choice, it is not as if they can increase auto-tunnel/bridge capacity. So even though they will get no revenue of any sort from this, they will contribute.
5. Amtrak does not really have much money to contribute because whatever little they have they need to keep the rest of the corridor from falling apart — bridges in CT, Baltimore tunnel, PTC, etc.

So they will get together, will talk and not much will happen because both Cuomo and Cristie will be out of office before even the first shovel is in the ground. No, until we have a catastrophic failure of some sort, nothing will happen.

Alon Levy July 29, 2015 - 12:28 pm

Can we please end the “falling apart” meme? It creates needless hysteria and makes people lose the ability to think straight about costs and benefits.

In particular, take the three examples of Amtrak projects you’ve cited. None of the three has anything to do with falling apart infrastructure. The movable bridges in Connecticut impose slow restrictions, have high maintenance costs, and, east of New Haven, limit train capacity. They can keep doing so for a while. Replacing them is a corridor upgrade and not SOGR or normal maintenance. The B & P tunnels, ditto. The speed restriction is onerous, but the FRA’s study on the B & Preplacement, back before SOGR was all the rage, focused on the slowness of the Baltimore tunnels for passenger trains and the steep grades for freight trains. PTC is a signaling upgrade for improved safety, and, again, the legacy signals aren’t falling apart, they just don’t meet the newest safety requirements.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 1:19 pm

Gotta embrace realpolitik here. When everyone else gives up hysteria, we can too!

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 2:36 pm

The B&P tunnel was lousy compromise in 1873 and it hasn’t gotten any better. At least the tunnels seem to have given up their penchant for collapsing. For now. It leaks. Badly. That’s unfixable. Mitigatable but not fixable unless you dig it up. We could just pass up the five minutes it saves between Washington DC and Baltimore, wait until it does collapse and then run a bus bridge to BWI until it gets fixed. Or go with the foamer fantasy of much longer tunnels under US 40.

Alon Levy July 30, 2015 - 12:35 am

2 minutes, actually. Better rolling stock makes the time penalty a bit bigger – if you accelerate to line speed faster, a 30 mph slow restriction in the throat is a bigger deal.

It’s a good deal even at 2 minutes, given issues like maintenance costs and scheduling commuter and intercity trains on the same line, but it’s not about fixing something that’s broken; it’s about upgrading something that’s suboptimal.

adirondacker12800 July 30, 2015 - 2:14 am

So we should sit around hope the thing doesn’t flood or collapse or both? The crews that go out to bash the icicles off the ceiling are so endearing.
IIRC when they came up with the broad arc to West Baltimore it assumed that Penn Station Baltimore would be rearranged somewhat. And some rearranging in West Baltimore that’s not worth doing without a new tunnel. And came up with 5 minutes. YMMV after the final drawings are done.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 7:40 am

Regarding PTC, the NTSB, FRA, STB, and their predecessors including the ICC have been trying to get the railroads to install it since the *1940s*. It is badly overdue.

There definitely are places where the old signals actually are falling apart, not so much on the NEC but where the freight railroads haven’t upgraded them for 50 years.

On the NEC, it’s the poles holding up the catenary which are literally falling apart; they’re finding they have to pour new foundations for them. 😛

Amtrak has so much on its plate and so little money that Amtrak will definitely only contribute money if there’s some sort of extreme time urgency, like the need to get the box built before the air rights were developed over it.

anon_coward July 29, 2015 - 9:22 am

why can’t the PA and Amtrak agree on some extra fee added to tickets like everyone pays with airline tickets to pay for the TSA, airport use, etc? Last I read a lot of airports around the country are financed by fees from travelers, the airlines paying landing fees based on time, rent a car fees, etc.

issue some bonds backed by these fees and pay them off over 20 some years

eo July 29, 2015 - 10:59 am

Because nobody drives from here to LA. It is a time vs money issue. If you add a $5 surcharge to existing fares, then the tolls on the Holland, Lincoln and GWB become very attractive to at least 20% of NJTransit’s ridership. Auto congestion will increase substantially.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 12:32 pm

Auto congestion increases anymore and they have to telecommute. It’s why NJTransit is able to get away with some of the highest fares in the country.

lawhawk July 29, 2015 - 9:27 am

Where to get the money? That’s the $15 billion question.

NJ and NY are “broke”, which means neither is willing to shift limited existing revenues to pay for it, but NJ could increase the gas tax or shift to a per mile tax rather than the gas tax so as to refuel the transportation trust fund and pay for their share of projects like this.

Would Cuomo get on board with the plan if it somehow allowed him to get the LIRR off his hands? By this, I mean what if the Gateway plan was linked with not only Amtrak’s getting their HSR tracking, but shift LIRR so that it becomes integrated with NJ Transit so as to allow through running and better position assets for both NJ Transit and LIRR – running more revenue service trains rather than dead-heading them along a corridor with no real capacity to do that.

It would also facilitate a fix for the notoriously awful LIRR personnel deals – and clean up one of the most corrupt railroads in the nation (pension scam anyone?).

kevdflb July 29, 2015 - 6:42 pm

I wonder if any Penn Station expansion would be needed if LIRR and NJT through ran?
Looking the passenger loads the RER handles at Chatlet-les Halles, I would guess not….

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 7:42 am

You are correct.

I rather like the idea of contracting with NJT to operate the LIRR, forcing all the future LIRR hires onto the NJT pay/benefits/operating rules.

This would eliminate the grotesque featherbedding at the LIRR.

Larry Greenfield July 31, 2015 - 9:13 am

The less NJT and the Governor of New Jersey have to do with rail transit, the better. It would truly be a race to the bottom to have NJT operate LIRR.

Walt Gekko July 30, 2015 - 12:36 am

I like the idea of somehow combing NJ Transit AND the LIRR into a single line if at all possible. That would solve many issues and there would be the side benefits of having through travel for those in New Jersey who work in Queens/Nassau County for example without having to switch trains and allow for much greater flexibility overall. If it can be done, the benefits probably would be great.

adirondacker12800 July 30, 2015 - 2:21 am

Very few people would get one seat rides. Mostly because when someone in New Jersey goes looking for a job they don’t consider jobs on Long Island. There’s too many good options in New Jersey and Manhattan. And vice versa. And with, in nice round numbers, ten branches on either side the chances of your branch being paired up with a branch you want to go to are low. Anyone in New Jersey to a Mets game for instance. Most people in Long Island to a Mets for that matter.

Larry Greenfield July 30, 2015 - 8:23 am

Aside from the fact that such a combination would require cooperation between the two governors who can’t seem jointly manage the Port Authority, I can’t imagine what the “many issues” are that such a combination would solve. Furthermore, are there a lot of people that travel from NJ to Queens/Nassau? What would the benefits be?

Chris July 29, 2015 - 9:28 am

So… what happens if we (New Yorkers) don’t do this?

Workplaces are here, and it’s likely to stay that way – if they move to Jersey, they’ll move to PATH Jersey. The one possible thing I would see is rents going up because people in New Jersey want to move in, but it seems more likely that, being suburbanites, they’d prefer to move into Metro North or LIRR territory – if they wanted to live in a dense, walkable city, they’d already be living here, not in Jersey (the Jersey residents that want that sort of thing already live off of the PATH and are unaffected).

Why should I, as a New Yorkers, care about this stuff (and honestly, this goes for rebuilding Penn Station as well). It doesn’t affect me. SAS being completed would affect me. Closing the M loop would affect me. Upgrading the signal systems so we have countdown clocks on the B division and I don’t have to run up and back down the stairs at Delancey (is it an M? is it an M? nope, J) or West 4th to see which train is coming would affect me.

If this tunnel isn’t built, New Jersey will suffer. New York will probably be okay.

eo July 29, 2015 - 11:03 am

Because once these pesky NJ people are gone NY state does not get to tax their income. Also if they move to NY state (city or suburbs) they WILL demand services for their taxes, so NY loses by having to pay for these services.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 12:35 pm

Last I heard New York State collects 5 billion a year in taxes from people who don’t live in New York State….
And the state and city don’t collect sales tax when they go out to lunch.

Justin Samuels July 29, 2015 - 2:47 pm

I tend to agree with you which is why Cuomo won’t put much money in this tunnel.

The state has to fill the holes in the MTA Capital plan along with the city.

Now if this new tunnel is so important to regional rail the FEDERAL government should FULLY fund this.

I think Christie is jerk on so many levels, but on this matter I don’t think he and Cuomo are entirely wrong.

Upgrading NYC Transit and overall the MTA is the responsibility of NYC and NYS. But building new tunnels for regional transit should be a FEDERAL responsibility.

Other nations the national government pays a greater role in rail expansions.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 3:06 pm

If there is a Port Authority contribution equaling the size of the ARC contribution, that is a more than generous contribution of money attributable to economic activity that happens because of New York. State and city money should not be put up for Gateway. We have our own projects.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 4:12 pm

Okay, New Jerseyans and Connecticuters get their income tax cut to reflect the amount of services they barely use while at work.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 7:27 pm

Do I get a tax cut for all the services I don’t use too?

AG July 30, 2015 - 6:24 pm

Wrong…NY is expensive and so it needs NJ housing stock.

Peter Laws July 29, 2015 - 9:40 am

By “equity” I assume Governor Chestpants means “dumping the cost on the rest of the country”. That’s why the ARC tunnel was killed – the design completely precluded the fiction that this was an intercity tunnel “serving all the states of the Northeast Corridor” because it only connected to New Jersey and Macy’s.

If there are connections to Amtrak and the East Side Access tunnels, then it’s a regional or national project that can have a larger federal share lavished on it; if it’s for the convenience of suburban New Jerseyites getting to their Midtown jobs, then there won’t be as much Free Federal Money.

Also, if cost is a concern — and I don’t believe for a minute that any of the parties truly care about cost — then my god why would you let the $4,000,000,000 subway station people anywhere near it? Keep the PANYNJ the hell away from it!

Alex July 29, 2015 - 12:46 pm

“Governor Chestpants”! That made my day.

Larry Littlefield July 29, 2015 - 12:58 pm

So what is New Jersey’s share of East Side Access?

New York gets some benefit from this connection, but New Jersey gets far more. It is a reason for those with high paid jobs in Manhattan to live in NJ and not NY.

Christie wants NY to pay for services for NJ, when NY has a higher tax burden and unfunded needs of its own.

The non-federal share could be covered by an income or property tax surcharge in places in close proximity to rail stations west of the Hudson. Some of those are in NY. Most of those are in NJ.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 2:14 pm

Significant. New Jerseyans commute into New York, pay New York income taxes, buy things subject to sales taxes and then go home to New Jersey where they use services. So do people from Connecticut and to a lesser extent Pennsylvania. New Jerseyans pay Federal taxes that wended their way into the Federal portion of any project in New York.
…unless you wanna give up the 5 billion a year or so that out of state residents pay in taxes in New York.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 3:02 pm

New Jerseyans can’t possibly pay federal taxes that ended up in New York projects. New York is a huge tax donor itself. We’d need to get our own share back before we could take New Jersey’s.

And I find it unlikely that New Jersey’s cut of taxes and tolls from out of state residents isn’t itself significant. So stop whining.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 4:09 pm

No one forces you to use the New Jersey Turnpike to go to Delaware and get really reamed on tolls. Without lube. You are more than welcome to take the Thruway up to I-84 and go to Scranton and then down the Pennsylvania Turnpike to get to Delaware where you can get really reamed without any lube.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 4:33 pm

By that logic, nobody forces anyone to work in New York, either.

BTW, note that I didn’t say I was against the tolls. I’m not.

Larry Littlefield July 29, 2015 - 3:39 pm

“Unless you wanna give up the 5 billion a year or so that out of state residents pay in taxes in New York.”

Where is that figure from? And it isn’t just NJ regardless. It presumably includes business travelers, and Connecticut residents.

Now it may be as much as, say $3 billion. But those residents would be paying more if they were living in NY instead of NY.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 4:16 pm

The New York State comptroller is very assiduous and publishes numbers every year. That’s from a few years ago when the economy was lousy. It’s probably higher these days. Those Wall Street and Madison Avenue types pulling down mid six figure salaries while they live in Cos Cob or Montclair, add up.

JJJJ July 29, 2015 - 10:07 am

Are the Hudson car tunnels in tip top shape? I never hear about them having issues or needing to be closed at some close-by future date

g July 29, 2015 - 10:21 am

They didn’t flood. The Brooklyn Battery tunnel, for example, which did is going to have three years of regular tube closures and cost $300M to repair.

g July 29, 2015 - 10:14 am

The Feds should simply outright fund a new single track tunnel to be owned/controlled by Amtrak that would enable the existing tubes to be shut down one at a time for rebuilds so a major failure doesn’t cripple the whole NEC. Any additional capacity created after the work is done should be conferred to Amtrak and nothing to NJT. NJ should in this case reap what they’ve sown, nothing.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 12:29 pm

They should only use it for through trains to Boston – that don’t stop in Manhattan – because New York is contributing even less than New Jersey.

New Jerseyans pay a lot in Federal income taxes. And get less back than New Yorkers.

j.b. diGriz July 29, 2015 - 4:14 pm

Per capita they get back less than New Yorkers? I can understand how New Jersey in absolute terms gets less back than NYS, simply because they’re a smaller population state and a smaller economy.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 4:40 pm

Generally the feds lean toward taxing cities and spending in exurbs and hinterlands. I haven’t seen good numbers on this in most of a decade,* but New York City probably gets reamed as much as New Jersey or Connecticut. But New York State is largely rural, and has places with Alabama-esque economies. New Jersey is pretty urban, as U.S. states go, and its poverty is probably the poor non-white sort that doesn’t really get attention.

* It was D.P. Moynihan who liked to push the feds to publish numbers on this, and coincidentally the practice of doing so in detail only lasted a few years after he died.

Eric July 30, 2015 - 10:29 am

I think NYC should push for drastic downsizing of NY state taxes and budget. There could be a bipartisan coalition for this between Tea Partiers upstate who hate government, and NYC people of all parties who don’t want to subsidize upstate. NYC can then replace the state taxes with city taxes whose benefits are spent 100% within the city.

Ralfff July 30, 2015 - 1:14 pm

Actually, when you consider how much state spending in New York is driven by Medicaid dollars at a 50% federal match, if we got state spending under control we’d probably be much worse off in ratio of federal taxes paid:federal spending.

On that note, though, those federal spending:taxes charts are misleading, right? I mean they don’t factor in overseas spending, for one thing. Presumably even the states breaking even are net recipients when you factor that in

Bolwerk July 30, 2015 - 2:28 pm

No. Money spent overseas is money spent overseas, not money spent in the state(s) that the tax was collected in.

Ralfff July 30, 2015 - 8:41 pm

Right. What I’m saying is that if your hypothetical state is rated at 1.00 contribution:receipt ratio, it’s actually still not pulling its weight in terms of the total budget.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 7:48 am

No. Our biggest single problem upstate is that the state requires the counties to do all kinds of things including fund Medicaid — but doesn’t actually provide any funds for these “state mandates”.

So the counties have to raise property taxes (we’re mostly maxed out on allowable sales taxes), leaving us with very high property taxes compared with similar counties in other states.

What we actually need is for the state to take over things like Medicaid funding, and fund them out of the *income tax*. Upstate, we would then be able to slash property taxes. Downstate, you could use the money for whatever you like — NYC is *also* being forced to pay for Medicaid from its local taxes, which is crazy.

This is the only state in the union which charges localities for Medicaid costs, due to a bunch of stupid deals made by stupid racist suburban Republicans back in the 1960s. It’s time to unwind those stupid deals.

AG July 30, 2015 - 6:26 pm

actually yes – NJ is one of the few places that get back less per dollar… that said – most of those high earners work in NY

Larry Littlefield July 29, 2015 - 3:44 pm

Why can’t a third tunnel be built for $3 billion? Let’s start with that question.

j.b. diGriz July 29, 2015 - 4:16 pm

Maybe for the same reason that a single train station was built for 4 billion but didn’t add any real passenger capacity…

g July 29, 2015 - 5:09 pm

Let the feds do a design build award on their own and pay for it all. I strongly suspect their costs will be a lot less than anything the PA or MTA’s done in recent memory.

It will however be interesting to watch the PA spend enough cash to buy a modern nuclear powered aircraft carrier just to replace the PABT….

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 5:40 pm

if they could entice people who go down to the train station to catch a bus to the PABT to take the train instead they wouldn’t have to expand the PABT.

eo July 29, 2015 - 5:49 pm

Which is why I do not get it. Why can’t they make Secaucus the new PABT and have everyone take the train into NYC? It will cost much less than the replacement of PABT in the middle of Manhattan. The only issue is that you need Gateway to be completed before beginning to dump more people into Secaucus.

g July 29, 2015 - 9:08 pm

This is realistically what should happen, plus extending the 7 to Secaucus. Penn Station in it’s current state can’t absorb all that extra ridership on it’s own.

If Governor Intransigent can bother to actually work with NY and the Feds instead of polish his conservative credentials this is all doable.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 10:16 pm

Secaucus is in the middle of a swamp and will always be in the middle of a swamp. Even after they build office towers over it. Why should the subway go there?

Eric July 30, 2015 - 10:31 am

The City of London is also in the middle of a swamp, but after many years of development (1972 to be exact) it’s a quite desirable place. Secaucus is no different, build there and people will want to go there.

adirondacker12800 July 30, 2015 - 11:44 am

It’s 2015. People don’t fill in swamps anymore. Mostly because they call them valuable environmentally sensitive wetlands.

g July 30, 2015 - 3:05 pm

Because it’s the most logical transfer point and the station is already way overbuilt for it’s current use. 4 track NEC alignment, lots of room for a huge (and far cheaper) PABT directly adjacent, good highway access, etc. Even if new tunnels are built until the layout of Penn Station is addressed there it can’t absorb much, if any, new rush capacity. Cross hudson transport needs are only going to grow.

adirondacker12800 July 30, 2015 - 3:22 pm

why would anyone transfer to a train that gets them to Manhattan slower?

g July 30, 2015 - 6:29 pm

Slower than what?

Anonymous July 30, 2015 - 7:03 pm

Because they’d have no choice after the Midtown PABT gets torn down in this idea, I guess.

Also would it really be that much slower, especially during rush hours? Congestion in the Lincoln Tunnel means that there’s always an unpredictability factor, and naturally it’s much easier to tackle congestion outside of dense areas (e.g. not Midtown). Hence why people keep talking about through-running, why Paris constructed the RER, why London is constructing Crossrail (and a side benefit of the original Thameslink network) and are already talking about a second and third one – because of it being easier to handle congestion outside the CBD. Other cities are spending billions on through-running while NYC doesn’t even need to spend a dime on new track – only on ending bureaucratic turf wars (easier said than done)

At least for now, building any new Hudson rail tunnel should include a study on the practicality of moving out the PABT into NJ.

adirondacker12800 July 30, 2015 - 8:01 pm

The trains that already run between Manhattan and Secaucus?

Jedman67 August 3, 2015 - 11:00 am

“If you build it, they will come.” Transit doesn’t only affect NJ’ers commuting to new york. It affects NY’ers traveling upstate, or to NJ, or pretty much anywhere in the country. 15-20 minute delays inbound on the bridges and tunnels and Commuting 15 miles takes nearly an hour is “normal”.
What I don’t understand is how come it takes 5-10 years to build a new tunnel?

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 6:07 pm

they are. they are calling it Gateway. It’s gonna cost more and have slightly less capacity than what NJTransit wanted to build.

g July 29, 2015 - 9:06 pm

gateway had more components than just a single tube

eo July 29, 2015 - 5:41 pm

Because one might not do. The idea of building one tunnel and closing the two existing ones for overhaul does have some merit for consideration, but it also leaves everything prone to the same problems as now (maybe to a slightly smaller extent). A broken train in either the new tunnel or the open old one still causes the same delays as of now. And I see no way them being able to overhaul a tunnel in less than 2 years for a total of 4. Also you have no guarantee that the two exisitng tunnels will not give out at about the same time. Also selling this to voters as something that brings no new benefits, but only keeps the status quo is hard — much easier if you promise them something more. Realistically, they should just cut-out Penn South reducing the budget to $10B (guesstimate), build two tunnels + 4 tracks to Newark and call it a day.

Ethan Rauch July 29, 2015 - 11:23 am

I hope that while Gov. Xie is still in office he’ll have to come crawling back to the negotiating table to reconsider ARC, in a slightly different form for face-saving purposes. He’ll have plenty of time after his pathetic presidential bid implodes.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 1:57 pm

Why? He is practically crashed and burned. Even if he can eke out another gubernatorial term, there is no way he’s not going to share George Pataki’s fate in the political afterlife.

As far as we are concerned, that’s about the best thing that could happen to him, short of a coronary that moves him to another plane of existence!

Nyland8 July 29, 2015 - 5:29 pm

Had Christie not cancelled the ARC project, its expected completion would have been 2018 – or thereabouts. I would find it poetic if at that time, Amtrak just decided that, due to maintenance issues, it would cease all NYTransit train traffic through its tunnels, and direct all complaints about the issue directly to Chris Christie’s personal mobile phone.

Sure … it would be petty. But also perversely delicious to think he’d spend the rest of his life in the purgatory of getting complaint calls for dumping the project.

johndmuller July 29, 2015 - 8:15 pm

As much fun as this p***ing contest is between the NY and NJ POV’s, the idea is to get the tunnel built, notwithstanding the p***ing contest.

First of all, as things now stand, there are two sets of everyday people at risk because of the tunnels; the people living in NJ commuting to NYC and people riding Amtrak through NYC. Obviously, there are many more NJT commuters than Amtrak passengers. The NJT commuters are clearly a local constituency of Gov. Christie. The Amtrak passengers represent a constituency of Uncle Sam, albeit a regional, but still important constituency. The people in NY state particularly upstate, are not especially involved. NYC’s involvement is not really direct, more like the risk of suffering side effects like increased traffic and some future possibility of losing businesses or employees. Also, any money NY spends, will seem like a gift to NJ.

On the other hand, regarding the upsides of any project that does happen, in addition to bailing out those NJT commuters, benefits will accrue to NYC, particularly a project with a glorious landmard head-house (or even just world class railway tunnels).

This is a very difficult political situation, particularly for NJ. By rights they should expect to pay more for it, but no matter how little NY pays, they will get most of the glory. This is where the Fed comes in, finding a way to provide political cover to allow the governors to finesse this situation. We should be rooting for this face saving pageant to come to a successful conclusion.

I find it interesting that at this very moment, the Port Authority seems to be falling all over itself trying to spend money on La Guardia airport – new AirTrain, … completely new LGA terminal, complete with backing for a ferry service!!! What else can they do – a limo lane on the GWB?

Larry Greenfield July 29, 2015 - 8:27 pm

And today Christie says, “So let’s get a properly engineered tunnel that gets to Penn Station in New York, and let’s get it paid for fairly,” Mr. Christie said, “so that New York, New Jersey and the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey all share in the cost.”

Why does/should he want the Port Authority involved in paying for this tunnel?

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 9:16 pm

Why shouldn’t the Port Authority be interested? One of the reasons it was formed is that the harbor was congested with all the ferry boats.
They examined 137 option before they settled on ARC. “More buses” was one of them. It means the Port Authority has to build an even bigger addition to the bus terminal. And people will be really annoyed when the Lincoln Tunnel has four of it’s lanes for buses hours a day.

More buses means the Turnpikes has to build new lanes.

Larry Greenfield July 30, 2015 - 8:33 am

They may be interested but that does not mean they should fund the tunnels. The less they are involved with rail transit in the region the better; their PATH operation is the acknowledged cost leader. My advice to the Port Authority is to manage ports and leave transportation to those that do it well. Expanding the role of this hopelessly corrupt organization is a recipe for disaster.

eo July 30, 2015 - 9:30 am

Given that the PA cannot build new tunnels for cars into the city, the only thing preventing the existing ones from becoming a parking lot in the future is building some other connection to the west. A rail tunnel is one option. I am not sure that ferry terminals are another viable option, but some people would say so even though even today’s ferries arenot really that utilized or profitable and sure they are expensive for a round trip that is only coast to coast, not from where you are coming to where you are going. I am not sure if any other realistic options exist. So yes, while the PA is in the business of managing the tunnels it should contribute to expanding the cross-Hudson mobility. The fact that PATH is a cost mess has to do with their management, cost structure and gold plated union contracts, not with the purpose of providing transportation connectivity across the Hudson. The fact that they are not good at it does not mean that they should not be in the business of doing it, just that their management might need to be replaced with someone better and left alone by politicians.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 7:50 am

The Port Authority was charged with building a rail tunnel for freight roughly 100 years ago. They still haven’t done it. This is specifically to enable greater use of the deepwater Brooklyn ports.

I think they’re not very good at managing ports, either.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 9:02 pm

While their are people who break out in a cold sweat if they have to cross the Hudson or East River there is the class of people who are departing New York for the hinterlands and yokels who want to see the bright lights.


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