Home Gateway Tunnel A short-sighted Cuomo sees chances ‘not particularly bright’ for new trans-Hudson rail tube

A short-sighted Cuomo sees chances ‘not particularly bright’ for new trans-Hudson rail tube

by Benjamin Kabak
If Gov. Cuomo has his way, an empty concrete box to nowhere is all we'll see of the Gateway Tunnel.

If Gov. Cuomo has his way, an empty concrete box to nowhere is all we’ll see of the Gateway Tunnel.

It was the perfect Friday afternoon news dump for Andrew Cuomo, but it’s a story that didn’t disappear into the ether of a summer weekend. The New York Governor effectively told the feds to pony up or take a hike when it comes to funding a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel, and after proclaiming the odds “not particularly bright” for action on new tubes any time soon, Cuomo has been forced to defend his words all weekend.

A little less than two weeks after Anthony Foxx, President Obama’s current Secretary of Transportation, sent Governors Cuomo and Chris Christie a letter asking for a meeting on strategizing for a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel, Cuomo effectively said, “Thanks, but no, thanks.” And then he said it over and over again. His first denial came in the form of a letter [pdf] he Tweeted out to the public shortly before 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

His decision to spurn the offer to meet boiled down to dollars. As with anything in politics, the future of a trans-Hudson rail tunnel is going to be a contest over money. Estimating that the project will cost $14 billion, Cuomo wrote:

After many discussions by all parties, it appears that, by the end of the day, your Department to date is only offering a loan to build the tunnel and the loan calls for debt service payments due in year six of an estimated twelve-year construction schedule with literally no grant or other funding support from Amtrak or the federal government. This is not viable. The Port [Authority and New York and New Jersey] cannot shoulder this massive financial burden. It is simply not appropriate for Amtrak and the federal government to look to the States and to the Port Authority to bear the large financial burden of an Amtrak asset that has fallen into disrepair through lack of Amtrak investment over the decades.

As your letter to me recognized, this tunnel is a vital rail link for the entire Northeast corridor. The federal interest and Amtrak’s responsibility dwarf the NY-NJ connection. I urge you to obtain actual funding from the administration or from Congress. The federal need is evidenced by your interest and involvement. But we need to know what federal resources are available to repair these vital Amtrak facilities.

Now, in a certain sense, Cuomo isn’t wrong. The federal government can’t simply be a loan facilitator for the Gateway project or any other trans-Hudson rail tunnel. They too need to contribute actual dollars to the project. But Cuomo didn’t stop with this letter, and his subsequent comments nearly parallel Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel without seeking a better funding solution.

In comments on New York 1 on Friday and again to reporters during the Dominican Day parade on Sunday, Cuomo talked money. On Friday, he somehow claimed that the funding would “make the price of the ticket explode.” This, of course, hasn’t been a concern of his while building a new transit-less Tappan Zee Bridge without a firm way to pay for the multi-billion-dollar effect. The likely outcome is that the price of the New New York Bridge tolls will explode, but Cuomo isn’t wringing his hands over it.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, he again told reporters that “there’s no reason to meet now, because it’s very simple…I don’t need your advice; I know we need the tunnel. We’ll build the tunnel — I’ll go out there with a shovel myself — but we need the money.”

The feds had a different take. In response on Friday, they reiterated the need to meet to ensure all three partners — the feds, New York and New Jersey — are aligned on the best way forward. Lack of equity and alignment ultimately doomed ARC as Christie had the unilateral power to cancel the tunnel, an outcome the feds hope to deter this time around. Still, Cuomo isn’t interested in meeting, and in eschewing this meeting, he is coming across as derelict in his duties.

To me, this reeks of Cuomo’s recent moves regarding new ideas. If they aren’t his, they aren’t worth following through. The feds aren’t asking for action; they’re asking for a meeting. And if a new tunnel is going to take twelve (!) years to build, posturing over the funding split today isn’t going to resolve tomorrow’s problems. Cuomo and Christie should sit down for a meeting with the feds to plot out what the parties feel is an equitable split of the costs and responsibilities, and afterwards, they can begin to plan out who should fund what and how.

Overall, this project suffers from something of a credibility gap. Amtrak hasn’t presented a sufficiently detailed explanation of the costs, benefits and needs, but the perception exists that, without a new tunnel before the mid-2030s, regional travel could be severely compromised. Meanwhile, the competing narrative suggests that Northeast Corridor high-speed rail isn’t possible without a new tunnel for a variety of reasons. These storylines are seemingly at odds with each other, and this conflict has led many who would otherwise be on board with a new rail tunnel keeping these projects at arms’ length. But Cuomo’s willingness to dismiss Foxx’s letter off the bat won’t help us now or in the future, and if he’s going to dig in for the long haul, we’re all in trouble.

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Alex C August 10, 2015 - 1:39 am

The sooner Andy Cuomo is in prison, the better off NY will be. The man simply does not care at all about the state he governs. Nothing matters to him besides building his own ego.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:47 am

The only good thing I can say about Andrew Cuomo is that Carl Palladino would have been worse.

Which isn’t saying much. A random person picked off the street would be better than Andrew Cuomo.

eo August 10, 2015 - 9:12 am

Of all three, Cuomo has the least at stake in the project: the commuters from NJ do not vote for NY State elections, but still pay taxes in NY. The two that really need to pony up the lion’s share of the money are Cristie and Foxx. Cristie cannot benefit in any way from a meeting. He is running for president and if there was a meeting at which somehow it is agreed who would fund how much Cristie will be immediately in trouble because every opponent of his will have a field day with the reality that the only way to find the money is to increase some tax (most likkely the gas tax). Cristie’s primary chances benefit from the status quo of nothing happening and muddled prospects for the future. He is making a calculated bet that the tunnels will not fail completely during the next 4-5 months — the tunnels failing completely will throw him out of the promaries, but the chance of that happening is almost nil. Foxx cannot really do anything. Congress will never appropriate again any money, even the $3B for the tunnels that they had appropriated for the ARC. At least not in the next 40 years. They will point that back in the day when they did, NJ returned the cash, so the problem is for NJ to solve. What Foxx is really trying to do is to get the money appropriated stealthily by giving them away as a loan from the Feds now with the long term plan being that a future administration will forgive the loan. For good or bad, Cuomo is not biting and neither is Cristie.

The sooner one of the existing tube fails the better because that is the only way that the money will be found. Once there is an emergency, money will be found from all sources and a new tunnel will be built in 5 years instead of 12 (just look at the record how quickly Metro-North restored the Port Jervis line after Irene — in 3 months they did what would have taken 2 years under normal circumstances and they did it under budget, which is to show that when there is a will there is a way …) Before then, well, it sucks to commute from NJ …

tacony August 10, 2015 - 9:45 am

I wouldn’t be so optimistic. If there’s an emergency, I agree that the money will be found to expedite a quick fix in record-breaking time. But the tunnels don’t just need to be fixed. We need more capacity, and I wouldn’t be so sure that an emergency would spur action on adding that.

North Jersey, despite its close distance from Manhattan, was not nearly as connected to NYC’s economy before the introduction of rail service under the river with the construction of the H&M tubes and the North River tunnel. The introduction of Midtown Direct service drew even more connections. But NYC commuters still represent a small minority of NJ residents and some people certainly buy into the idea that subsidizing NYC commuters is actually not productive to NJ’s economy– they should be working in NJ! Christie is focused on lowering taxes to spur business to the state, not making it easier for people to work in NY. His political base works in NJ and is considering moving to lower-cost PA, not NYC. (Those are the “Buono voters” for whom his aides hate so much they manufactured a traffic jam.)

SEAN August 10, 2015 - 10:49 am

I understand your point, but it’s not as black & white as that. A rather large portion of Christie’s royal subjects work in another kingdom namely NYC regardless if he wishes to keep them close at hand. And since that’s the case, he’s better off making things easier for them as money earned in NYC is spent within his own kingdom.

Larry Littlefield August 10, 2015 - 10:35 am

“Once there is an emergency, money will be found from all sources and a new tunnel will be built in 5 years instead of 12.”

I agree in general. And the Feds ponied up the money to replace the highway bridge in Minneapolis AFTER if failed, and it was quickly replaced. That’s the way it has been. Of course they could do something to fix the problem now, but that isn’t the Generation Greed way.

“Congress will never appropriate again any money.”

Not in the current political climate.

g August 10, 2015 - 10:40 am

Neither Christie or Cuomo can be considered responsible partners since they have ulterior motives that don’t correspond with solving this problem. I’m betting that the state of the north river tubes will continue to decline culminating in the shutdown of at least one well before Amtrak’s stated 20 year estimate. A significant accident (say a spalled off chunk of concrete damaging a train/causing injury or a derailment could trigger this basically any time. NJT will be locked out of Penn station so Amtrak can continue operations and NJ commuters will be left to decide on a mix of the already overburdened PATH or PABT in addition to ferries. Mayhem and anger will ensue. The Feds should indeed provide a grant to cover some of the cost but given the state of Congress I think this is unlikely in the near future. The failure to have any sort of contingency plan that doesn’t depend on a big gift from the feds is pretty amazing.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 12:12 pm

PATH is at capacity. Unless you know someplace where there’s a few thousand buses parked, not being used, that’s not an option either. And want to make the Lincoln Tunnel buses-only during rush hour.

g August 10, 2015 - 12:35 pm

I’m more than aware that PATH and the PABT are at (and past) capacity…hence my “already overburdened” descriptor. The bulk of the NJT rail riders going into Penn currently will have to be diverted to Hoboken then to ferries (for either a nice long walk or packed subway connection in Manhattan). I don’t envy anybody who will have to endure this if they work in midtown.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 1:42 pm

Order a ferry right now when will it be delivered? There’s a better chance of scaring up used buses.

g August 10, 2015 - 3:26 pm

Why would you have to order a ferry?

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 3:54 pm

Because there aren’t a lot of unused ferries laying around. Ya want to start running ten ferries across the Hudson you have call the shipyard and order some. How many years would that take, from the time the order is placed until they are in service.

g August 10, 2015 - 3:56 pm

You can lease ships and hire private contractors. It’s done all the time.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 4:52 pm

Lease them from who? The people who own 2,000 passenger ferries are busy using them hauling around 2,000 passengers.

SEAN August 10, 2015 - 7:08 pm

China? Oh wait, the buy America act would prohibit it. Oh dam.

Al August 10, 2015 - 11:40 am

If only we had politicians who put the best interest of the region ahead of their own personal aspirations.

Michael K August 10, 2015 - 11:58 am

If a tunnel fails, NJT will run peak-direction service to NYC with the trains continuing to Sunnyside. The reverse in the PM Peak. Capacity will not be the laughable “6 trains per hour.”

Ryan August 10, 2015 - 12:19 pm

Amtrak owns both the tunnel and the station.

If they tell NJT their trains are no longer welcome, guess what? You’re changing at Hoboken. Sorry, them’s the breaks. Shoulda paid for the tunnel when you had a chance!

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 12:41 pm

Amtrak owns the tunnels to Queens too. Tell Long Islanders they shoulda helped pay for the tunnel and they can change at Woodside and Jamaica.
New Jerseyans pay Federal taxes just like New Yorkers do. And a significant fraction of the taxes Albany quibbles about endlessly.

g August 10, 2015 - 12:47 pm

There are four east river tubes so the situation isn’t the same. Amtrak can cycle required refits without the world ending. Also, as noted, the ESA will (hopefully) open in the early 2020s reducing LIRR’s schedule into Penn.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 12:33 pm

Where do the LIRR passengers go?

Larry Littlefield August 10, 2015 - 12:35 pm

By that time, hopefully Grand Central.

Ryan August 10, 2015 - 1:02 pm

Into Penn Station. It’s only the single track across the Hudson that would be limited to 6 TPH. Full LIRR service could and will continue uninterrupted, only NJT needs to be thrown out.

Eric F August 10, 2015 - 1:14 pm

Auntie Annie’s pretzels will be ruined.

SEAN August 10, 2015 - 7:12 pm

Personally I like Pretzel Time, not Antie Anne’s. Either way this whole issue is really twisted. There – I said it!

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 1:49 pm

If there’s one track eastbound in the morning they can run 26 trains per hour like they do now. The LIRR can terminate at Woodside and everybody can change to the subway.

Nathanael August 13, 2015 - 11:49 am

There are four Amtrak-owned tunnels under the East River. If they close one at a time, that’s still three — so there’s enough room for Amtrak and LIRR.

There are two Amtrak-owned tunnels under the Hudson River. Close one, you have one tunnel. Amtrak gets full use of it. NJT sends all its trains to Hoboken.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 12:29 pm

People who use the trains to Manhattan don’t work in Hoboken.

g August 10, 2015 - 12:39 pm

Amtrak will need to maintain bi-directional service on the NEC during rush, that means no NJT trains.

There is no way that NJ can compel Amtrak to give them scarce slots on their revenue generating line to mollify commuters who’s own state has hung them out to dry.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 1:35 pm

Who knows? That’s sort of up to Amtrak. If Amtrak is actually willing to sacrifice southbound service between, say, 8am and 9am to help NJT, what does it matter? There is reason to think a lot of early Amtrak travelers could adjust, since these are people typically taking long trips (at least day trips) anyway. They plan their trips in advance and aren’t as time-sensitive as transit users. There is no reason to think Amtrak would or should sacrifice service unnecessarily, but it might be able to make some adjustments.

Christie is objectively a supreme idiot, but this “punish New Jersey” meme is getting to be a bit much.

g August 10, 2015 - 3:14 pm

Amtrak is constantly faced with “you don’t make money” arguments in Congress when their budget is up so I am highly skeptical that they would do anything to compromise service on the line that actually does make them some money. Even if they were able to free up a couple slots they would be very small comfort considering NJT’s need.

NJ has quite effectively painted itself into this particular corner and now there is a NY governor who is giving Christie a run for his money on political intransigence and no federal money on the table. NY/NJ and the PA should simply execute the NYEDC’s 7 line extension plan (with an even larger bus terminal) post haste. The wait for Amtrak and the Feds to come to the rescue with a magical pot of free money paying for this going to be long and very painful

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 3:45 pm

Amtrak has been saying for decades that they will need more capacity to accommodate more intercity trains and increased NJTransit ridership. New York has had it’s thumb stuck in it’s sphincter since the tunnel for East Side Access was completed in 1972.
Lawn Guylanders can go to Grand Central or change to the subway in Woodside or Jamaica. Or take the shuttles to Brooklyn so they can change to the subway there.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 4:26 pm

Really might not cost Amtrak anything. Or I’m wrong and it would. But either way it boots nothing to do it just to punish NJ.

That doesn’t mean spending money on them either. I don’t really see much sense in NYS financing *any* transit for New Jersey, including the 7 to Secaucus, except through whatever the Port Authority contributes. We have plenty of projects that are more important to us. In terms of practical impact on New Yorkers, more trans-Hudson capacity probably ranks somewhere below Rockaway Beach reactivation in terms of direct usefulness.

g August 10, 2015 - 4:49 pm

I agree that either has low odds of being funded. The ultimate tab on a 7 extension would be lower than gateway and it would start addressing the PABT issue which is why I generally favor it.

I predict that absolutely nothing will be done and at least one of the tubes will fail in the next several years which much diminished reliability (as already apparent) in the interim.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 5:53 pm

Why would anyone get off a train in Secaucus to get on a subway when they can just stay on the train and get to the subway faster?
Instead of sending the buses to Secaucus from suburban train stations send trains to Manhattan and people can just take the train. No need to expand the bus terminal. Or build more lanes on the NJ Turnpike. It’s one of the reasons the Turnpike was willing to kick in just over a billion dollars for ARC.

g August 10, 2015 - 7:05 pm

The 7 would serve as a stopgap while the tubes are rehabbed one at a time. That train wouldn’t be going to Penn until the tunnels are ready again. After that the PA can aggressively reroute existing bus service to Secaucus those people will have the option of Penn bound services or the 7 if headed for central or East midtown and skip Penn altogether.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 8:38 pm

The extra lane on the Turnpike won’t be cheap to build. When there’s already underutilized railroad tracks most of the places the buses go. Changing from the train to the subway in Secaucus isn’t much different than changing to the subway at Penn Station. The subway lines at Penn Station go to a lot more places than Times Square and Grand Central. Getting to Times Square would be faster via Penn Station and probably getting to Grand Central. If the suburban trains go all the way to Grand Central the subway would be slower. It makes subway aficionados all frothy, other people not so much.

g August 10, 2015 - 9:58 pm

I can only assume you can’t actually read what i said. The 7 train as a stopgap works to get people onto the island in the general vicinity of where they need to be. Some people will still need to xfer to other subway services. After two years when the tunnel refute are complete full service can be restored to Penn and buses rerouted to Secaucus where those riders will have the option of taking the 7 if headed to midtown east or Penn if they need the west side or connected subways at Penn. The net effect is reduced load on the failing PABT and increased overall trans Hudson capacity without waiting for a magical bag of fed cash that may never arrive or will be way too late if it does.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 10:15 pm

I read what you said. Sending the 7 to Secaucus is nearly useless if the tunnels to Penn Station are usable. Sending buses to Secaucus would cost a lot more than having those people get on a train at the suburban train station instead of getting on a bus at the suburban train station.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 10:49 pm

Sending the 7 to Secaucus is nearly useless if the tunnels to Penn Station are usable.

Hardly. A nontrivial number of riders could use it to get closer to destinations on the east side. Penn Station is pretty far south and west, so it’s hardly an optimal catchment. The bus terminal is actually better, and the 7 would capture it and then some.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 11:25 pm

There are places in Manhattan not called Grand Central. And other subways besides the Lexington Avenue line.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 11:43 pm

Hurr, you think the 7 Train might intersect a few of them? Mindless comments like that make you look like a serious suspect for tetraethyllead poisoning.

adirondacker12800 August 11, 2015 - 1:24 am

Hmm. When did the subway trains on 6th Ave, 7th Ave. 8th Ave and Broadway stop running between 34th Street and 42nd Street?

Bolwerk August 11, 2015 - 1:24 pm

But there are places in Manhattan besides where those go.

adirondacker12800 August 11, 2015 - 2:21 pm

Yes there are. It’s just as easy to transfer to them at 34th Street from a train that didn’t wander around Hudson County, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen and that doesn’t slow down and stop for Hudson Yards. Probably easier since it’s spread out over three stations and there aren’t hordes of people transferring between West Side lines and the East Side lines.

Bolwerk August 11, 2015 - 9:03 pm

So? Not one of them as an encompassing of the Manhattan business district as the 7. The E and F run pretty far north, providing good service north of 42nd but none south, and the 1/2/3 don’t even touch the east side. The only two that actually intersect Penn are the E and IRT Seventh Ave. services anyway.

This is another case where you’re complaining about something entirely vapid anyway. Running the 7 to Secaucus doesn’t negatively impact any commuters already going to Penn. Their trains would still go to Penn (barring a tunnel collapse), still providing the same connections that already exist. They would just have other options they could choose to exercise.

adirondacker12800 August 11, 2015 - 10:45 pm

They’d be able to get to Hudson Yards a bit faster. That’s not worth spending billions on.

Bolwerk August 12, 2015 - 11:19 am

They’d be able to get to any point in the Midtown business district below around 46th Street as fast or faster, including the two biggest subway stations on the system.

No matter what you think it’s “worth,” it’s not trivial.

adirondacker12800 August 12, 2015 - 10:49 pm

Wandering down to the station on 23rd and stopping there, 34th St. and 10th Ave. slows it down. Getting to Times Square would be faster if you go to Penn Station and go one stop on the subway. Same thing for anything north of there too. There’s more to the East Side than places you can walk to from Grand Central. E train from Penn Station gets you there faster for the places near the E train. Going to Penn Station, taking a subway train up to Times Square and getting on the shuttle for Grand Central might even be faster. There’s no place except Hudson Yards, maybe, that you could get to faster by changing to the 7 in Secaucus. It’s nearly useless.

… and there’s the problem of shoving tens of thousands of new passengers, along with the new ones going to Hudson Yards, onto the Flushing Line platforms along 42nd.

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 11:24 am

Slightly slower service is generally better than double transfer (time) penalties, which is what east side riders currently experience unless they happen to be headed to an E Train station. (The F is two long blocks away from Penn).

There is no reason to think a trip like Secaucuse-GCT would be much slower than Queensborough Plaza-Times Square, with Queensborough Plaza being a major transfer point for rail and bus.

Regardless, people who want to go to Times Square could still take train directly to Penn and walk or take the A/C/E. There are reasons to argue against 7 to Secaucus maybe, but crappier service isn’t one of them.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 2:15 pm

No they don’t. The majority of their traffic is to and from New York. They can run the trains from Boston that arrive in the morning rush to Grand Central And from Grand Central in the evening rush. Shouldn’t have to cancel more than 2 or 3 New Haven Line trains an hour to do that.

g August 10, 2015 - 3:31 pm

1) Amtrak doesn’t operate out of GCT anymore.

2) MNRR peak rush service saturates the Park Ave tunnel and GCT switch plant. There is no free capacity in the desired time frame.

3) MNRR’s brass and New Haven Line riders especially will resist to the last breath any reduction in service under these circumstances.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 3:50 pm

New Jerseyans should just roll over and lose 75% of their capacity because Metro North doesn’t want to give up 5%?

g August 10, 2015 - 4:04 pm

I’m simply telling you that it’s not realistic. LIRR wouldn’t doing it’s best rendition of Journey to the Center of the Earth if they could have gotten platforms out of MNRR at GCT.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 4:37 pm

They dug the tunnel years and years before there was a Metro North. When they were digging the tunnel they were dealing with a bankrupt railroad that was considering tearing down Grand Central so they could sell off the air right. The almost bankrupt railroad would have been thrilled to palm off half the platforms to the state.

g August 10, 2015 - 5:08 pm

The deep bored tunnels and concourse under GCT for the ESA were most certainly not built “years and years” ago. Only the 63rd st tunnel crossing the east river.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 5:36 pm

And the plan for the Manhattan end of the tunnel, when the New York Central was busy going bankrupt and the tunnel was being dug, was a separate terminal.

g August 10, 2015 - 5:49 pm

What the plan was decades ago is immaterial to the options the MTA had on the table when the ESA was planned. MNRR was not going to give up platform space at GCT. They didn’t need the Madison Yard so thus was born the access point for a deep terminal connected to the GCT complex.

Regadless, Amtrak has no claim on GCT. If MNRR wouldn’t even share with LIRR they sure as hell aren’t going to give space back to Amtrak with their ridership FAR higher than when Amtrak pulled out and nothing can make them.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 6:55 pm

The cog railway they would have needed to get from the 63rd street tunnel to where the interlocking begins to spread out for Grand Central at 59th Street wasn’t an option they considered for more than a minute or two.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 4:40 pm

Eh, New Jerseyans sure rolled over when their governor created this problem. Then they even rewarded his incompetence with reelection.

Anyway, reality: MNRR owns the trackage in CT and approaching GCT. It can probably tell Amtrak to fuck off. Amtrak owns the trackage under both rivers. It can *definitely* tell NJT to fuck off. You’d be lucky to get half the trans-Hudson capacity at peak hours if a tunnel fails.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 5:42 pm

That wouldn’t go over very well with movers and shakers in Fairfield County that flash their Club Acela card whenever they can. The MTA wants to play that game Amtrak can play the same game in Penn Station.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 6:12 pm

Don’t see your logic. MTA (really MNRR) has something Amtrak needs. Amtrak has something MTA (really LIRR) needs. Worst case scenario is detente.

It’s NJT that doesn’t really have any bargaining power here. It needs Penn access, but doesn’t own the NEC or Penn.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 7:00 pm

Amtrak can just as easily tell the LIRR to send their trains to Grand Central. It makes life much simpler for Amtrak and their biggest tenant NJTransit.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 7:06 pm

But…why? It won’t change how many trains can get to Penn from the south. It would be pointless.

SEAN August 10, 2015 - 7:21 pm

Where do most LIRR riders end up? If the answer is on the Eastside, then routing most trains to GCT makes sense. I know I oversimplified here.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 7:24 pm

They probably do end up there, but the chokepoint for NJTP will be the North River tunnel anyway. Not Penn platforms accessible to both railroads already.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 8:24 pm

The MTA wants to scream MINE MINE MINE Amtrak can grant them their wish. Wanna get from Stamford to Philadelphia? Get on Metro North for Grand Central, it’s only two short subway rides to Penn Station. Can’t send the train through Bridgeport can’t send the train through New London or Hartford either. People can take Metro North to New Haven, change to SLE to get to Rhode Island and change there for an MBTA train to Boston. The ones that don’t decide to fly instead.
It would be just tooo tooo bad that Amtrak would be forced to stop running the slow low ridership trains and because of the capacity constraints run longer trains on the fast high ridership parts of the NEC. Awful even.
The MTA wants to scream MINE MINE MINE in Westchester and Connecticut Amtrak can scream MINE MINE MINE is Queens just as loud and screw up LIRR service worse than Amtrak service would be.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 9:18 pm

So what? Amtrak has no reason to force the MTA to do something to help NJ Transit deal with a problem created by a New Jersey politician. Amtrak can pretty much do whatever it wants with Penn routing no matter who is screwed over.

Not that the MTA can do anything anyway. Amtrak will want its 3-4 TPH.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 10:10 pm

A problem created because the MTA refused to do anything about it.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 10:42 pm

Uh, no. There was a financed tunnel and station. The MTA didn’t prevent that.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 11:24 pm

When Amtrak and NJTransit asked the MTA what they wanted to do the MTA took out it’s Steinberg drawing of the world, said it didn’t have anything to do with the LIRR and refused to do anything. So after years of trying to get the MTA interested NJTransit gave up and decided to stop asking for their input. They came up with ARC which NY barely acknowledged.
Make it difficult to get into Manhattan and employers will go someplace that’s not so hard to get to. Their employees will stop paying New York State and New York City income taxes when their job relocates out of state.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 11:33 pm

Dude, the governor of New Jersey canceled a financed tunnel project and then lied to justify his actions. New York may be to blame for some of the shortcomings with ARC, but there is no blame for ARC’s demise east of the Hudson. The feds and PA were paying for most of it anyway.

adirondacker12800 August 11, 2015 - 1:19 am

NY is mostly to blame why nothing was done when it proposed something get done in the 80s. And the second time. And the third time. And the fourth time. And in the 90s. The foamers have reams and reams of drawings with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back explaining why that was so much better than what was proposed earlier. NY was never interested in any of them. Lots of them are fixated on Alternate G. That implies at least Alternates A through F. NY is so clueless about the whole thing that Senator Chuck the mouth Schumer suggested that the Port Authority prevent the Turnpike from spending Turnpike money and the mayor suggested running the subway out to the middle of a swamp instead.

Alex B. August 11, 2015 - 12:37 pm

I’m pretty sure the G in Alt-G wasn’t assigned in alphabetical order. The G stands for Grand Central.

The preferred alternative that became the ARC project was Alt-P (P for Penn Station). There was also Alt-S (to tie into the Southern part of Penn Station, also because it involved a new set of tunnels through to Sunnyside).

Bolwerk August 11, 2015 - 1:26 pm

It’s ironic to see adirondacker12800 calling other poeple foamers given his allergy to blaming the person responsible for the current problem.

adirondacker12800 August 11, 2015 - 2:01 pm

They examined 136 options in the preliminary studies. The 137th was “what flavors of disaster happen if we don’t do anything”. Which is why Amtrak has been saying since the 80s “we need more capacity”. Which the MTA ignored. That there are capacity issues in Penn Station isn’t the MTA’s problem, when one of the tunnels goes out of service that half of the LIRR’s traffic has to turn around in Jamaica isn’t Amtrak’s problem.

adirondacker12800 August 11, 2015 - 2:29 pm

If the MTA had cooperated instead of hiding it’s head in the sand something would have been done in the 90s. New Yorkers think New Jersey is icky they’ll get a really good view of it from four hour bus ride to Washington DC. And a lovely view of their beloved skyline during the 20 minutes it takes the bus to get to the toll plaza at the Lincoln Tunnel on the return trip.
His girthness is a lying sack of excrement. It’s not surprising. Most Republicans are. If New York politicians had a clue they would have said something pertinent instead of proposing nearly useless subway lines to the middle of a swamp.

Theres a limited number of slots at DCA, yer gonna be getting on a bus if something happens.

wise infrastructure August 11, 2015 - 4:14 pm

There are easy train to subway transfers and harder ones

The question is: time + how many landings, flights of steps and blocks does one have to navigate to transfer from NJT to the subway

At Secaucus a near direct transfer could be built.

At Penn, one must come up from track level walk up to block etc, all while bumping into people walking in every possible direction or just milling around

A #7 Secaucus transfer also gives another east side option in addition to the “e” at Penn

Needless to say, a PA Bus terminal built as part of the Secaucus #7 complex would allow for a smaller terminal in manhattan.

adirondacker12800 August 11, 2015 - 5:45 pm

12 cars trains pulling out of Secaucus are still 12 car trains when they pull into Penn Station or Grand Central. Buses are very expensive to run, highways are expensive to build and maintain. It’s much cheaper in the long run to put people on trains at their underutilized suburban train station instead of building highways and bus terminals for expensive buses. And they don’t get stuck in car traffic.

Wanna decongest Penn Station? Send the Long Islanders who want to go to the Upper East Side to Grand Central and the ones who want to go to Wall Street to Wall Street. And the New Jerseyans.

Bolwerk August 11, 2015 - 9:06 pm

Whine all you want, it was never the MTA’s job to care about service west of Penn. That’s Amtrak and NJT territory.

adirondacker12800 August 11, 2015 - 10:46 pm

Then it’s not Amtrak’s and NJTransit’s job to worry about Lawn Guylanders. They can go to Grand Central.

wise infrastructure August 11, 2015 - 10:52 pm

When one says that the MTA’s job is not west of the Hudson, one is missing the boat (or train).

The MTA is a NY body looking out for the good of NY – not the good of the MTA.

NY will be harmed if it looses it western suburbs and NY business will suffer.

Therefore west of Hudson is of concern to the MTA.

Bolwerk August 12, 2015 - 11:33 am

You’re either stupid or trolling or both, adirondacker. The LIRR has the same right to use the East River tunnels that NJT has to use the North River tunnels (NJT uses both, in fact). And there is no issue with access to the East River tunnels, so no reason to even bring this up. Kicking LIRR out of the East River tunnels isn’t going to make more room for NJT if one of the North River tunnels fails.

And no, I’m not “missing” anything. The tunnels west of Penn are just not MTA service territory. The MTA’s job is to provide wages and pensionstransportation, not look out for New JerseyYork business interests. By all means the MTA should accommodate NJT’s needs, within reason, but it’s not the MTA’s responsibility to pay New Jersey’s bills.

adirondacker12800 August 12, 2015 - 10:57 pm

Amtrak owns the East River tunnels and if the MTA doesn’t want to play nice Amtrak doesn’t have to either. It’s just as trollish as saying Metro North will never ever never let trains run to Boston or Albany from Grand Central ever never again.

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 11:15 am

There is nothing to “play nice” about.

(1) I don’t see why you think Amtrak would want to use GCT. Amtrak’s facilities have been in Penn exclusively for decades, and that’s allowing for the fact that MNRR does let Amtrak use GCT when asked, and has done so as recently as within the past decade.

(2) I admittedly doubt MNRR would give up peak slots to Amtrak, and I don’t see what incentive Amtrak has to try to force the issue.

(3) MOST IMPORTANTLY: it makes no difference. NJT wouldn’t be helped by moving Amtrak to GCT. Your argument is as dumb as the “punish New Jersey” crowd’s, except in this case you’re even demanding others pay for a mistake the NJ gov made.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 11:49 am

If they are running 26 trains an hour from New Jersey, in the morning rush hours, through the single tunnel out to Sunnyside how does the 7:00 Acela to Washington DC get to Newark? And the 7:05 Regional. And the 8:00 Acela? The alternative to running to Grand Central is terminating the New England trains somewhere along the New Haven line and telling people to get on Metro North. If they are running 26 trains an hour from Sunnyside to New Jersey in the evening rush hour how does the 5:00 to Boston get to Penn Station from Newark?

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 12:05 pm

Haha, I don’t see any reason to think they would run 26 trains through a single tunnel if a tunnel were lost. To say the least, I doubt there is a particularly convenient place to store that many trains all day. They’d probably be lucky to be able to run 12.

Regardless, none of that affects the LIRR. At worst, LIRR gets more flexibility on what slots it can use, and at best there is no change. 😀

Mind you, I don’t have a problem with Amtrak giving up an hour of southerly morning departures for NJT’s sake in the event of a tunnel failure, even though it would inconvenience me personally!. I just don’t see reason to expect Amtrak would do such a thing.

adirondacker12800 August 13, 2015 - 12:20 pm

If they aren’t running normal rush hour service from New Jersey how do people get to work? Scavenge every spare bus in the Northeast and make Ninth Ave a bus loading and unloading zone?

Bolwerk August 13, 2015 - 5:10 pm

Some would move to buses. Some would come at off-peak times. Some would probably telecommute. Some would probably stay in hotels during the workweek. Some might move across the Hudson.

I’d guess the vast majority would just be fucked though.

Anonymous August 11, 2015 - 6:18 am

Besides everything other people have mentioned; Amtrak doesn’t have stock capable of using both third rail and overhead lines (and even if they did, they will never move over Empire stock to the NEC)

JJJ August 10, 2015 - 6:12 pm

Please. Amtrak trains sit at NYPenn for random amounts of time.

It is easy to coordinate. During the morning rush, have 25 minutes of inbound time (10 trains in), 10 minutes of outbound time (5 trains out). As long as the trains are platooned properly it works.

6 trains per hour is a joke and would only be the case if they intentionally wanted to screw things up. You lose capacity but its not that bad

Justin Samuels August 10, 2015 - 2:16 pm

I agree with Cuomo on this. A new NY/NJ tunnel would benefit the entire Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston. Therefore it is not the responsibility of NY and NJ to pay for this. Amtrak needs to pay for this. If the federal government is so desperate for this to happen let them fund Amtrak. That way they won’t have to worry about a governor like Christie canceling the project.

Eric F August 10, 2015 - 3:38 pm

I could see a 90% federal contribution with the states coming up with the rest.

NJ simply cannot finance the tunnels. It’s revenues are stagnant and every additional dollar over baseline that comes in is now being claimed by the bottomless pit known as pension deficit.

I get the sense that NY does have a fair bit of budget leeway, but it would take a statesmanlike act to allocate serious money to something that will be termed a tunnel for NJ, and in any event the MTA has its own capital needs. Those with their knives out for Cuomo should note that there doesn’t appear to be any “progressive” politicos taking issue with his position on this.

That leaves the feds. They are left by process of elimination, and also because the tunnels are a true subject of interstate commerce, a key civil defense and resiliency matter and a massive deferred maintenance line item needing to be addressed to preserve the value of Amtrak’s northeast corridor proper, which is the most valuable federal rail asset.

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 3:59 pm

A big chunk of the pension deficit comes because Christie Todd Whitman sold the legislature on selling bonds so the money could be invested in the stock market. After all the Dow was gonna be at 30,000 by 2005. The free market was going to be the salvation of the pension plan. No need to actually pay for things.

Eric F August 10, 2015 - 4:15 pm

In between Whitman and now there were 3 Democrat governors, all joined at the hip with the unions, the last of which actually dated the head of the employees’ union. He paid off her house for her through a loan that he forgave. Really, you can look it up. Couldn’t they have helped their buddies out a bit in the funding area, or did Whitman somehow make it impossible?

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 5:06 pm

Who says they didn’t?
Another big part of it is that the Republicans in Congress swallowed the snake oil that their was a new paradigm and the masters of the universe on Wall Street knew what they were doing. Until they blew up the economy. The returns the pension plans were getting for years were really really lousy.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 6:51 pm

I generally agree with your analysis, but their revenues really don’t have to be stagnant. Fuel taxes could be raised, at least a little, probably without harming NJ at all.

Eric F August 11, 2015 - 8:54 am

I’m very much ok with a large gas tax increase, and part of that could go to the tunnel, I just don’t think it’ll go very far to the total cost, maybe that could help make up a 10% state share over a ten year construction horizon. A regional sales tax would be another way to finance it 1% in the key commuter counties for 10 years — but I don’t see that as politically viable.

Rob August 10, 2015 - 3:31 pm

Key point: “his subsequent comments nearly parallel Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel without seeking a better funding solution.” And do your think he’ll get half the grief that the Republican Christie did for it? Of course not.

And if you really are worried abt HSR for the NEC, the B&P Baltimore tunnels are a worse constraint [30 mph].

adirondacker12800 August 10, 2015 - 3:48 pm

30 MPH is better than 0 MPH because there’s no room for another train. Until the B&P starts shedding gunnite or floods or both and closes.

JJJ August 10, 2015 - 4:58 pm

Let’s think outside the box!

Assume the project costs $15 billion.

Assume the cost is split 3-ways.

What if NJ takes their portion of the pie ($5 billion), and instead of spending money on tunnels, buys up a few companies headquartered in Manhattan (just the controlling interest) and moves them over to Newark.

Take that Cuomo!

SEAN August 10, 2015 - 7:05 pm

You mean misappropriation of $5 Billion?

FYI As of September 8, six bus carriers at the PABT will have gate relocations. They are as follows… NJT, Decamp, Lakeland, Community Coach, Rockland Coaches & Shortline. Keep in mind not all routes are changing though. http://www.panynj.com

JJJJ August 10, 2015 - 9:42 pm

“On September 8, 2015, the PABT will have some gates changes that may affect your daily commute, more details to follow in the coming weeks.”

Very helpful, would click again

AG August 10, 2015 - 10:42 pm

because if they tried to move them to Newark there would be mutiny…

AG August 10, 2015 - 10:42 pm

I really don’t get it… The governor was correct in what he said… What’s really the problem? Like him or not – there is no controversy here… The feds need to pony up money like they do all over the country – not just a loan.

Bolwerk August 10, 2015 - 11:07 pm

Well, it’s kind of his fault there is no money for the most important infrastructure, but I suppose he’s technically correct.

johndmuller August 11, 2015 - 1:12 am

Seems like it’s ought to be obvious that NY and NJ don’t have the same amount of need for the tunnels; clearly NJ citizens are the ones who need the commuter facilities. In the macho political world, this places NJ in a somewhat diminished status viz a viz NY. Easy to see why NJers could resent this, but really, … , it’s a river, … , not like NYers put it there to inconvenience anyone, or that NJers were exiled there to make it hard for them. So Christie picks up on this resentment and whatever status deficiency complexes NJers might have and says ‘Screw them!’ while cancelling ARC. Maybe scores some points, but waking up the next morning having busted the budget for roads and bridges, he tries to sell this as ‘getting back at them’, for putting NJ in this situation – time for a mirror check.

The situation is not really so black and white as that – NY could conceivably lose some corporate jobs to NJ (although the reverse – with jobs and even population moving from NJ to NY) could also conceivably happen too). NY does benefit from additional tunnels with increased mobility and increased economic reach, and by getting the lions share of whatever prestige/glory might be associated with the tunnels and whatever headhouse monument got built. NY also gets some negatives from tunnel problems, with increased traffic and workforce dissatisfaction over horrible commutes.

No reason though for Cuomo to go all absolutist “NO WAY’ on this; just because Christie was going out of his way to keep mentioning how the costs had to be ‘equitably shared’ among the various interests, Cuomo should at least have taken the higher ground and been polite, only having to maybe recharacterize the sharing to something a little vaguer, like ‘funded in a fashion fairly reflecting the needs and benefits of all the parties’. It’s certainly fair game to call the feds on not providing real money for what is clearly a project with regional/national benefits as well as local ones.

Still, not sure what need there was to be so Christiesque in his dissing the whole thing – unless he thinks that the fed is bluffing and will blink. Personally, I think it more likely it will just push Christie and the feds to puff up their chests right back at him – how stupid can you get?

AG August 11, 2015 - 6:05 pm

It’s called politics… In the end it won’t affect the outcome. Sen. Schumer actually just came up with the best idea so far.

wise infrastructure August 11, 2015 - 11:59 am

Is there no way that a tunnel could be constructed that would:

*bring be used exclusively to bring passengers into penn station during peak periods
*and that would allow freight use through to both long Island (via Jamaica) and the North East (via 4th tracking of the Hellgate) during other periods

Obviously such routing through the dense Manhattan would have to be off limits to dangerous/combustible cargo

Maybe such a plan could actually be cost effective and be of interest to the private sector. (NJT/Amtrak/LIRR would of course have pay for usage)

Anonymous August 12, 2015 - 8:28 am

The private sector probably won’t be interested in building an expensive rail tunnel to and through Manhattan if they could build it a bit further up the river as a bridge to connect with the Hudson line and the NEC (let’s be realistic, how much demand for rail freight is there on Long Island?), which also saves them on electrifying and the logistics of having a separate locomotive fleet for said tunnel (or having to deal with diesel exhaust, which would send costs even further up). And because it would be going through Manhattan (and underground too!), dangerous/combustible cargo would almost certainly be banned, which makes for a rubbish investment.

So no, as long as the rails and operations remain owned by the government the only way this is going to be built is by the government.

adirondacker12800 August 12, 2015 - 11:54 am

There’s almost 8 million people on Long Island. They buy a lot of stuff. Which has to be shipped in. After they are done using it, it turns into a lot of garbage and has to be shipped out.


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