Home Gateway Tunnel Amtrak stays focused on Gateway while Cuomo dilly-dallies with Penn plans

Amtrak stays focused on Gateway while Cuomo dilly-dallies with Penn plans

by Benjamin Kabak

Cuomo’s plan to turn the Farley Post Office into the Empire Station Complex should not upstage trans-Hudson capacity work.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his plan to fancy up Penn Station without a similar commitment to increasing trans-Hudson rail capacity, the idea seemed to land as if dropped there by a tornado. The newly-christened Empire Station Complex took the old idea for Moynihan Station and rebranded it to look like a cross between a supersized Apple Store and a modern European rail station. At the time, Cuomo vowed to construct the thing for a few billion dollars and promised to release an RFP for the project before the week was out.

Well, that week ended; another began and ended; and now another is two days away from ending. The RFP is no closer to seeing the light of day. Dana Rubinstein spotted the delay for a Politico New York story, but she couldn’t pinpoint the source. Neither Empire State Development nor Amtrak could offer an explanation, but I’ve heard it’s a simple answer. Despite promises to release an RFP in short order, Cuomo’s team simply didn’t have one ready, and it takes longer than three or four days to prepare an RFP of the scope and magnitude dictated by a $3 billion plan to overhaul Penn Station. His team is now working on putting together the joint solicitation RFP/RFEI, but that won’t appear overnight.

It’s fitting in a way that this delay has come about as it seems to indicate Cuomo’s lack of overarching policy leadership. He can criss-cross the state, promoting grand ideas, but if the grand ideas seemed to come out of nowhere, that’s because they did. The officials in charge of the nuts and bolts didn’t have an RFP ready on time because they likely didn’t know they were going to need to have an RFP ready. Press conferences are easy; governing is harder.

Luckily, some agencies that aren’t New York state are doing a better job of focusing on delivering the needed transportation improvements, and in today’s Times, Emma Fitzsimmons checks in on the progress on the Gateway Tunnel. He reporting offers up more detail on the initiative than we’ve had in some time. To whit:

In a presentation to [U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony] Foxx, Amtrak officials said the entire project could cost as much as $23.9 billion, with the largest share of about $7.7 billion going toward building the new Hudson tunnel and repairing the existing tunnel. The project includes a host of other elements, including expanding Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan at an estimated cost of $5.9 billion, and replacing rail bridges in New Jersey…

After Mr. Foxx toured the tunnel on Wednesday, he said he would continue to advance the plans during the final year of the Obama administration. “I’d like to have a financing package that is solid enough by the time we walk out of the door that everyone has the certainty that the project will happen, and the funding set aside to get it done,” he said…

Amtrak officials have been reluctant to provide specific figures for the cost of the project while they are still in the early stages of planning. On Wednesday, they cautioned that the numbers were preliminary estimates, and the real costs would be determined after conducting engineering work and an environmental plan and considering available financing. The expansion of Penn Station, by adding tracks to the south, could start in 2024 and be completed by 2030, according to the presentation. Work to replace the Portal Bridge in New Jersey, an old swing bridge that often causes delays, could start next year. There was no timeline provided for the Hudson tunnel project, but Amtrak officials have said that work could take about a decade.

As Fitzsimmons also noted, Amtrak officials have finally stated as well that the current tunnels are “structurally safe, but that service was becoming less reliable” due to the flooding during Superstorm Sandy. How much longer Amtrak can go before it absolutely must make repairs remains to be seen.

What we know is that New York, New Jersey and the feds have agreed to somehow split the costs for this massive project; we know it wasn’t included in Cuomo’s $100 billion State of the State infrastructure spending spree; we know Foxx is likely to be replaced in 12 months; and we know Gateway, with the expansion of Penn Station — a separate expansion from that proposed by Cuomo — will be expensive. This is the important work and not that fancy rendering I’ve slapped on top of this post. I hope Cuomo is paying attention, and I hope he’s more prepared for this heavy lifting than he was with the RFP for his pet project that’s still being drafted.

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mister January 21, 2016 - 12:47 am

$7.7 Billion for the tunnels? That’s actually not bad, considering the cost of the ARC project.

Leadership is not dreaming up ideas. Leadership is finding a way to get things done. Cuomo is dreaming up ideas, but so far hasn’t come up with a way to pay for any of it. Until that happens, and until we drop the idea of spending $22 Billion on upstate roads, this administration is going to keep spinning its wheels and getting nothing done.

But, he did manage to get private funds to overhaul Penn, so… good?

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2016 - 1:31 am

ARC was going to cost less than half of what Gateway will cost and have more capacity.

Eric F January 21, 2016 - 9:14 am

Citation? ARC would per se have less capacity. ARC was a dead-end terminal with 4 platforms. The ARC alignment did not allow through running to Queens, so train storage was minimal. ARC is better than status quo but would not even “double” capacity as some of the idiotic press accounts stated at the time. Gateway doubles capacity.

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2016 - 12:00 pm

Gateway is a dead end terminal too.

26 trains an hour for ARC. The website for the ARC project is archived. Here’s one snapshot


25 per hour for Gateway.

ARC had a longer interlocking that divided itself into two levels. And was going to cost half as much.

Eric F January 21, 2016 - 12:46 pm

Interesting. I find it hard to believe they could actually run 26 trains per hour out of that, but that’s what they said.

I don’t believe any cost estimate bandied about for ARC.

We’d be better off with ARC, but it was flawed.

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2016 - 4:30 pm

NJtransit and the FTA where estimating around 10 billion. They had more detailed information and plans. As you get more detail and plans the cost estimates get more accurate. The one about 14 billion was pulled out of nether regions. So was the part about New Jersey having to pay for all of it.

Bolwerk January 24, 2016 - 11:38 am

adirondacker and Eric F. are both wrong/right. ARC was going to allow NJT more capacity than Gateway. Gateway allows Amtrak more capacity, which ARC only provided in an emergency if at all, but as of my 2013 or so understanding cuts the number of slots NJT will actually get by 7 or 8 if memory serves. This is probably not because fewer trains could run through Gateway, but because Amtrak will hog slots.

So, for NJT, Gateway means paying more than it would have paid for ARC to get way less potential service. Also, NJT would have controlled ARC, but Amtrak will control Gateway.

Finally, Gateway is (was?) sort of two projects: new tunnels and Penn Station South. The new tunnels provide a through option to LI by way of the old station, but Penn Station South is a dead end terminal. To me, the only interesting feature of Gateway is the through service, and the rest could probably be minimized or dumped.

(Disclaimer: details may have changed since I last looked at any depth. Cuomo’s machinations may have or maybe will change things considerably.)

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2016 - 1:19 pm

Last time I looked ARC was going to be capable of 26 trains an hour. Some places said 48 total. Other places said 52. Passengers using ARC would have separate access to the subway and the street. Passengers using Gateway will have to go through Penn Station. Amtrak and NJTransit share stations every day all day, Penn Station New York and in New Jersey. Why would they suddenly have a problem with new platforms, wherever they are?

lawhawk January 21, 2016 - 9:18 am

Not quite sure how you arrive at that conclusion. ARC scope was for the tunnels and new underground terminus in NYC. Gateway includes not only tunnels, but Penn expansion, Portal Bridge, and other HSR improvements between Newark Penn and NY Penn.

Capacity is going to increase – but NJ Transit will not get the lion’s share of that increase. I’ve always thought that the NJT claims that they’d get X train movements into their ARC plan were unrealistic because you couldn’t get revenue train movements after dropping passengers off – they’d be sent back to NJ empty, reducing overall capacity of the new 2-track setup. I’m sure Ben, Bolwerk or Alon remember more about that.

The Gateway plans prioritize HSR, and by going to 4-tracks for the entire Newark-NYP right of way, along with all the necessary upgrades, you get much more reliable service, and much more service (NJT or Amtrak). NJT just doesn’t get to control the new tunnel (and I see that as a good thing).

Alon Levy January 22, 2016 - 1:39 pm

Why would sending trains reverse-peak reduce overall capacity? The double-track tunnel plan is for one track in and one out, and not some harebrained one-way scheme in which both tracks are used inbound in the morning peak.

Eric January 23, 2016 - 1:06 pm

What do you think of a 3 track/1 track scheme under the Hudson, like Metro North currently has to GCT?

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2016 - 2:56 pm

ARC was going to expand Penn Station too. Six platforms in Macy’s Basement. With entrances/exits north of 34th Street. The plan was to send them to a brownfield site a few miles away on the border between Kearny and Jersey City. Which because the plan was canceled the Hudson County Authority that owns it is ready to sell.
It would be very very silly to have four tracks under the Hudson and only two to Penn Station in Newark. New bridges and any other work was a separate project. It still is and the first phase is proceeding. Connecting the Main, Bergen and Pascack Valley lines is a separate project which is still on back burner.

Eric F January 21, 2016 - 9:12 am

The moment Andy identifies a pot of say $1 billion is the moment that the entire state assembly raids it for $2 billion of Frankenstein’s monster social program spending.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:50 am

Um, no. You haven’t really been looking at what the legislature (Assembly and Senate) is raiding money for. It ain’t “social programs”.

It’s PORK. Member items. Slush funds. Kickbacks. Stuff which they can put their name on.

3ddi3 January 21, 2016 - 7:57 pm

I believe the total for ARC was more than just the tunnels, there was the Bayonne bridge, new tracks laid down, the new station terminal.

John-2 January 21, 2016 - 2:04 am

I’d like to know more about the $5.9 billion tag on the Penn Station project. Does that include modernizing the track level of the existing Penn, including the possible track realignment and platform widening (which would require the relocation of Madison Square Garden and 2 Penn Plaza) along with constructing the new area between 31st and 30th Streets? Or are we talking about what you mentioned yesterday, that the bulk of the $$$ for the Penn Station project will go for the above-ground stuff the public can see and the pols can take credit for? (Which translates into a few downstairs cosmetic changes for $900m or so, to go along with the $5 billion multi-level marble-floor mall above the train station.)

eo January 21, 2016 - 8:52 am

No! It does not include track realignment or platform widening. Those will never happen. Forget about them. They are much worse pipe dream than Cuomo’s Empire Station.

You probably wonder why? Simple: to accomplish any of these Amtrak will need to curtail the capacity for train movements at Penn by at least 50%. That means 50% fewer LIRR and NJTransit trains for about a decade. That would never happen.

Amtrak and the state agencies are much better off spending the money which such a realignment would cost on a completely new station somewhere else in Manhattan.

AG January 21, 2016 - 12:58 pm

Amtrak stated many times in their reports that they have zero interest in moving MSG. They are fully focused on “Penn South” (which according to documents released before would mainly be for NJT) – probably because it is less expensive of an alternative.

Subutay Musluoglu January 21, 2016 - 6:35 am

Because of how these agencies work in silos, and the fact that Amtrak’s plans have been in development far longer than Governor’s Cuomo’s whirlwind announcements, Amtrak’s $5.9 Billion for Penn Station related work is more than likely entirely separate from Governor Cuomo’s plans. It probably includes all track realignment east of 10th Avenue, the demolition of all the properties on the entire block bounded by 7th Avenue and 8th Avenues and 30th and 31st Streets (disposition of historic structures yet to be determined) known as Penn South, the subsequent construction of the station, platforms, and tracks on this block, and then all of the work required to make seamless integration from this annex to the rest of Penn Station / Empire, including Moynihan, or Penn West, or whatever they are calling it these days.

eo January 21, 2016 - 9:01 am

You are pretty much spot on. The track realignment is minor and applies only to non-platform tracks due to the need to add switches leading to the new tracks of Penn South.

The historic structures on that block have no shot at surviving long term (50-100 years) now that the Gateway is pretty much locked in as a shallow tunnel to the existing Penn.

Subutay Musluoglu January 21, 2016 - 11:08 am

I agree with you, and I should have been more specific – there is one church on this block which I believe is either a NYC Landmark and / or on the National Register of Historic Places. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but there will be a need for mitigation/protection. They will have to excavate around it and underpin it, or even consider moving it permanently to a corner of the block. This is not without precedent – a couple of 1800s era buildings were moved in Downtown Brooklyn 15-20 years ago for the expansion of MetroTech, and in the late 1990s the old Empire Theater was moved a few hundred feet east to west along the south side of 42 Street – today it is the entry for the AMC Empire 25 movie complex.

Eric January 21, 2016 - 5:32 pm

Moving buildings is not such a big deal.


Webster January 21, 2016 - 8:20 am

This isn’t really “Cuomo’s Plan”, he simply lifted from a previous study that explored options for station improvements in the interim period before the MSG actually is moved.

To be exact, the recommendations Cuomo’s pulling from come from work done by AJSNY.

The point isn’t to do either Gateway or this, it’s that all of these improvements need to be made, with the eventual relocation of MSG the end goal.

Creating new facilities in Farley is a worthy goal, if it means clearing said facilities out of the existing station so that concourses and passageways can be rationalized. I think you’re being obtuse by insisting no “capacity” improvements result from this initiative.

The only things plaguing the station aren’t the tunnels…the actual station itself – and its strain to handle the number of passengers moving through it – also is as important. Simply constructing Gateway (even with Penn South) doesn’t solve these issues, either….

It’s clear from the original AJSNY work (the same elements of which remain in Cuomo’s proposals) that the recommendation is to reconfigure the passageways/concourses underneath MSG as much as possible. The only thing that worries me about Moynihan is whether Amtrak, LIRR (Metro North, at some point) and NJT will be forced to actually share this space, instead of carving out their own areas.

The way I see it, Gateway is a long-term, slow moving project, whereas these solutions are more near-term.

There are many other problems with the way Penn is evolving (as a larger complex), since it remains to be seen just how well all of the component pieces will interconnect, but what’s being proposed certainly isn’t solely cosmetic.

It’s not always either, or; sometimes, we can have both.

Subutay Musluoglu January 21, 2016 - 11:13 am

You are spot on – all this work was already underway for the Penn Station Visioning Study, which was initiated by the Penn Station stakeholders (Amtrak, LIRR, NJT) about 5 years ago. The original objective of this study was to identify ways to clear up the physical impediments and clutter that plague the station, such as relocating columns and opening up sightlines and light wells, trying to create a seamless concourse, as well as establishing a uniform, cohesive wayfinding system It appears that Cuomo wishes to build and expand and try to accelerate this this work.

AG January 21, 2016 - 1:05 pm

Well from what they released – NJT is to move to Penn South. Also – none of the actual agencies involved with running any of the operations seem to want to waste the time and money to get MSG to move somewhere. Cuomo won a concession from them to but the small theater on the side. That’s probably as far as it will go. They can’t even find space for a soccer stadium anywhere in the 5 boroughs.

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2016 - 4:31 pm

There is a very nice soccer stadium near the Harrison PATH station. For the few games that might need something bigger there are lots of venues that can host it. And do.

AG January 21, 2016 - 6:03 pm

Not going to happen. They won’t be sharing stadiums. It’ part of the franchise agreement with MLS. Aside from that – teams like to have their own stadiums to maximize revenue by hosting as many non-core events as possible. You can’t do that when you share. The Giants and Jets play in different conferences – plus football stadiums are too big to host many non-core events… So they could never earn enough revenue to own one themselves in this expensive market. Baseball games are at least 81 times a year – that’s why they can have their own.

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2016 - 10:26 pm

If it’s such a fabulous idea I’m sure they can find a site, pay for it without subsidies from the city and state and build it without subsidies from the city and state.

AG January 21, 2016 - 10:48 pm

C’mon let’s get with reality… Not much is done without some form of subsidy in our society nowadays.

Eric January 23, 2016 - 1:09 pm

Just a week ago the NFL Rams turned down a subsidized stadium in St Louis for an unsubsidized stadium in Los Angeles. If the market is big enough, teams will move there even without subsidies. And NY is a bigger market than LA.

AG January 23, 2016 - 6:15 pm

No.. The NFL didn’t turn it down. Stan Kroenke did. Everyone in the sports world knows that guy who married into Walmart money is a cut throat. He used his fortune to buy up a whole bunch of land in LA that he wants to develop. That has way more to do with just football. It’s a mini city he wants to build in Inglewood. He’s the one who wanted to move because HE can make more money in LA. The other owners who have to vote would not fight against him. That has nothing to do with the NFL not wanting cities to put up cash. Are you seriously going to tell me that if his development (and stadium) plans hadn’t make it through Inglewood approval process in record time (wink wink) he wouldn’t have taken that money from St. Louis? Be serious. It’s simply that HE will make more money in LA doing his redevelopment project of which football is just one piece. That’s also why he doesn’t need a co-tenant.. The other teams vying to move to LA the Chargers and Raiders needed to share. Now that their deal fell through – the Chargers are talking sharing with the Rams and the Raiders may go share with the 49’rs. Football teams don’t play enough to make enough money to pay for a stadium. Nor are there other events that large that they can hold regularly to fill the stadiums to make revenue. It’s not like an arena. Again – that’s why the guy Kroenke is building a mini city. Thousands of housing units. Hundreds of thousands of square of feet of retail as well as office space. Again – he could never build that stadium just off football. Of course if he puts down his ego and let the Chargers share he’ll collect rent from them. Had he just been building a stadium and not all those hundreds of acres of development – he’d want a lot of money from the taxpayers of LA – or he’d stay in St. Louis.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2016 - 12:44 am

How much has it cost the city and the state every time the Yankees or the Mets say they need a new stadium? If it’s such a fabulous idea how come all those people who work there, that make 7 figure salaries, aren’t chomping at the bit to get in on it?

AG January 22, 2016 - 5:10 pm

Because you don’t seem to realize how money works in the real world. If moving to Boston to be near MIT was such a great idea why does GE need tax breaks?? And on and on and on… It’s just how the world works.
I hear right wing “tea party” types say “if transit is so great why does it need subsidy”.
Btw – the city doesn’t own either baseball stadium anymore… They issued tax free bonds – yes… But “we” don’t own them like the old ones. The taxpayers in Jersey don’t own Met Life where the Giants and Jets play either…

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2016 - 6:20 pm

They don’t. The Jets and the Giants are the only professional teams to play in an unsubsidized stadium. Partly because they share it.

SEAN January 22, 2016 - 7:56 pm

Correct. It was reported that the main reason that Met-life was awarded the Super Bowl in 2014 was do to the fact that the stadium was paid by the Jets & Giants.

A lengthy piece in the NYT a few years ago revieled just how bad most stadium deals are. The worst offender was the old Giants stadium as the bonds are still being paid well after it was demolished. This is why there’s such anger over the Atlanta Braves wanting to move out of Turner Field.

AG January 23, 2016 - 10:15 am

Well no – the NFL doesn’t care about that. The NFL loves subsidy. What they love most – as it relates to hosting Super Bowls are new stadiums. Just check the rotation. Outside of Miami – Arizona – New Orleans (because they are warm in January) the rotation tends to be new stadiums.
That said – having no roof would be a demerit for a cold weather city – but this being the largest media market and the richest – tipped it in this area’s favor…

Yeah – municipalities owning stadiums is as dumb as them owning office buildings. they never know how to maximize revenue and keep costs controlled. The old Giants stadium vs. Met Life is the perfect example… Like the WTC before and after they let Silverstein control part of it.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:53 am

The only municipality I’d trust to own a stadium is Green Bay.

They also own the team, you see. That helps avoid conflicts of interest.

AG February 8, 2016 - 11:25 pm

Well no – it’s (Green Bay) owned by shareholders… I’ts “publicly traded” but not owned by the actual “public” – meaning taxpayers.

AG January 23, 2016 - 10:33 am

Well true if you don’t count tax break as a subsidy. Like every major facility of the type though they get tax breaks… But yeah they paid for it (construction) on their own.
To come full circle. MSG is not subsidized. They own the land. They also paid for the over $1 billion renovation themselves. Yes – it’s for the same reason. The company who owns the arena also owns the Knicks – Rangers – Liberty. Plenty of ways to get revenue.

The Yankees and Mets also own their stadiums but their “subsidy” came in low cost financing through tax exempt bonds through the city. That’s basically the same deal the soccer stadium was looking for. The city wasn’t asked to spend any cash… In fact the owners were going to buy out the almost bankrupt parking garages (which should not have been built in the first place) with their own money. (That is in contrast to the current deal taking place for the MLS team in DC where the District is actually putting out $150 million in cash).
The mayor had to stand on his “principle”. Though not ironically for a Democrat he sees nothing wrong with giving tax credits for the movie and television industry. Head scratching – huh?

Rob January 21, 2016 - 10:17 am

A shame the PRR is not still around, as I’m sure it would have happily done the job already. But unfortunately the predecessors of Foxx and Cuomo and their colleagues put it out of business long ago with their voracious regulation, taxation, and subsidy of competitors.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:56 am

By “the predecessors of Foxx and Cuomo and their colleagues”, you’re referring to

— Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, who built the Interstate Highway System,
— Republican Nelson Rockefeller, who built many of the other NY State expressways,
— Republican Thomas Dewey, who built the NY State Thruway


Because the government-subsidized expressways are what drove the PRR bankrupt.

Larry Littlefield January 21, 2016 - 11:18 am

“In a presentation to [U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony] Foxx, Amtrak officials said the entire project could cost as much as $23.9 billion, with the largest share of about $7.7 billion going toward building the new Hudson tunnel and repairing the existing tunnel.”

Do the tunnel and repairs now, for $4 million. Get rid of all the cost-inflating bureaucracy and privileges, from “prevailing wage” rules used to pay for retroactive pension increases and underfunding 15 years ago to “environmental reviews.”

We can’t afford to keep paying for Generation Greed.

Larry Littlefield January 21, 2016 - 11:18 am

I meant $4 billion, of course, but even that is too much.

MF January 21, 2016 - 1:04 pm

Your schtick is getting old.

Matt January 21, 2016 - 1:57 pm

New station looks like a 10-year-old airport. Where’s the grandiosity of a rail station? Can we have some sculpted artisan stone? Please?

Rich B January 21, 2016 - 3:29 pm

I would say the aesthetic of these renderings – particularly the central Farley space – is more like 25 years dated. It is NOT a modern design. Gross.

Webster January 22, 2016 - 5:32 pm

…So WTC Hub is too grandiose, and this isn’t grandiose, enough? ¯\_(?)_/¯

PS this is kinda, sorta what train stations look like, in the 21st Century. 🙂

JJJJ January 21, 2016 - 1:58 pm

Has anything been done in regards to short-term circulation capacity improvements?

Take this entrance:

Chaos. Why not blow up the retail on either side, both at street level and below, and add 20 feet of new staircase or escalator capacity (10 on each side). That would make a world of difference.

Further, move the taxis to a side street so the sidewalk can be expanded by 10 feet (plus the removal of people waiting).

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2016 - 4:34 pm

There is a lovely taxi stand at about 7 and a third Avenue that runs between 33rd and 31st…

Smotri January 21, 2016 - 2:21 pm

America, the “Can’t Do” nation.

Ray January 21, 2016 - 8:58 pm

Ben – its your blog – and you can draw whatever conclusions you want about Cuomo’s “delay”. You are credible on transit issues – and a great source of news. I consider you a fantastic journalist. But here you are crossing into an partisan territory. When it comes to your coverage of the governor, I feel you have an ax to grind (and its down to the handle).

More than anything, I find the view astonishing that there’s some miss in not having a fully fleshed out joint RFP ready a week after the vision press conference. Are memories short? Cuomo lead the way on LGA the same way – organizing a coalition of boosters and interested leaders. They held a press conference, then visioned, then deliberated, then solicited interest and then put a development together. And on that project the state had full power and authority to put the deal together alone.

In this case, we have two states, likely the Port Authority (who will wind up contributing something – they just don’t know it yet), the ESDA, a connection to Federal DOT, Congressional delegation, participation of Amtrak and MTA and (tenant) NJT along with some iconic and powerful private sector property owners. There’s a reason Penn is a cesspool. No-one owns the thing. I’m not surprised at all that there isn’t a document. This is going to take few months to a year to thread the needle. The fact that MSG’s Jim Dolan appeared at the press conference was a big win and shows that Cuomo has been sweating the big stuff. It’s the movers and shakers that need to get together to do a deal. The vision of a design build – with state seed money – driven by a major private developer – is what this concept has needed. The functionary paper pushing can come later. This needs top down management to get beyond the terrible inertia.

I’ll give you this. There have been Cuomo press conferences with renderings and pronouncements that have gone nowhere before – Aqueduct Convention Center comes to mind. And then there have been some that are moving forward LGA, Tappan Zee. Let’s hope this is one of the latter. I’m on record here in comments being a big fan of this governor. I like his big thinking and his pragmatism. His administration is demonstrating that big ideas are still possible in NYC even in the crazy era of $2.3 billion per mile subway construction, and $4 billion dollar subway station (PATH).

Benjamin Kabak January 21, 2016 - 9:16 pm

Ray – Appreciate your honesty and recognize that your comment deserves a longer reply than this one. Here’s the short answer though: Cuomo’s press release promised the RFP by the end of the week, and he restated that pledge in prepared remarks and to reporters when asked. The RFP still hasn’t been released because, as I’ve been told, there wasn’t one to release. That’s a big whiff. If he can deliver, he deserves praise, but this has so far been planning by press conference.

Ray January 22, 2016 - 7:22 am

Thanks Ben, I stand corrected. Leaders should not make promises they can’t keep. I didn’t realize they had promised it out of the gate. Perhaps posts such as your will prompt an update from ESDA. My bet is they thought they had all the cats herded – but then a mouse ran by soon after the press conference.

Ray January 22, 2016 - 4:32 pm

Hi Ben, hopefully you caught the Gov’s office release of the documents expected. Weekend reading!

Brooklynite January 21, 2016 - 10:56 pm

At the risk of opening a can of worms, is connecting Gateway/Penn South/Empire Station to one of the three levels of Grand Central still on the table by any chance? Building multiple billion-dollar mega-termini is unhelpful if we want to avoid an entire region’s worth of people funneling through a single building for no real reason.

eo January 22, 2016 - 9:29 am

Short answer: No.

Long answer: While a good idea, such a connection will cost much more money than everything else envisioned at this time for Penn Station and Gateway. The marginal benefit of connecting the two stations is not worth the north of $50B which it would cost to accomplish when compared to the marginal benefit of new Hudson River Tunnels or even Penn South. Money and political capital will be much better spent on Gateway now. Once Gateway is completed, the grandchildren of your grandchildren can ponder whether it is worth it for them to connect the stations.

orulz January 22, 2016 - 12:07 pm

Where does that $50 billion figure come from?

SEAN January 22, 2016 - 8:26 pm

I do see some value connecting Penn Station & Grand Central despite the enormous costs of threading between all of the utilities, subways & underpinning of buildings.

Lets say for example you live in Summit NJ & your job is located at 48th & Lexington – currently you would get off the train at Penn & take the 1, 2 or 3 to either the 7 orshuttle. If your train stopped at GCT, it’s an easy walk from there.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2016 - 9:47 pm

If you lived in Summit and worked at 48th and Lex you’d probably take the E.

Brooklynite January 22, 2016 - 11:26 pm

It’s the same logic as behind the RER – it’s better to let commuter rail trains have several stops in different parts of the city than dumping everyone in one place and having them make their way around the city on local transit.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:57 am

Also, because the trains don’t have to reverse (and cross each others path doing so), through running RER-style allows for more trains per hour.

AG January 23, 2016 - 10:04 am

True – though extending the 7 would probably much cheaper and have a similar effect.

eo January 25, 2016 - 2:39 pm

Nobody is arguing that there is no value in connecting the stations. The question is whether that value (the value to the commuter in Summit aggregated over all such commuters) is anywhere close to the cost of the whole undertaking.

Bolwerk January 24, 2016 - 11:46 am

The cited cost of a tunnel from NJ to GCT in the early 2000s was around $3.5B. Not sure that included service through Penn.

eo January 25, 2016 - 2:57 pm

Well, it might have been. But that was then. Now you have the LIRR terminal under Grand Central to deal with. Also none of the tunnels leading north of GCT can support catenary over current rolling stock — the tunnels are not tall enough (the ESA tunnel will not even fit bi-levels at all even without the catenary). In theory you could use M8s, but in practice you cannot — they do not use them even for the football trains, but drag an NJT train set up to New Heaven for that purpose. You also run into the problem that not all lines in NJ are electrified. There are many other issues too. After a combination of (1) tunnels from Penn to GCT, (2) rebuilding the Park Avenue tunnels, (3) underpinning a bunch of subways and buildings including GCT itself, (4) electrifying a bunch of NJT tracks, (5) thousands of new rolling stock vehicles, and (6) endless costs to maintain service while you are doing all of the above for about two decades, (7) inflation and cost escalation during that time frame, you are definitely looking at something on the order of $50B.

In other words, it will not happen while you or I are alive. Let’s focus on getting something more reasonable such as the current Gateway and leave this dream connection to our grandchildren.

On another note: Ben, it seems that the Request for Proposals was sent out on Friday. I am not sure how “final” it is though.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2016 - 3:52 pm

It was for a terminal in Macy’s basement as the foamers liked to whine. Designed so someday it could connect with Grand Central. It wasn’t examined as closely as the project west of Fifth Avenue. The suggestion was for East Side Access West under Madison Ave.
The tunnel from the west side of the Palisades to 12th Avenue was relatively cheap. The expensive part was when the two tunnels spread out into four to go to two levels of tracks and platforms. And the entrances/exits. It didn’t include costs for thing west of the Palisades out in the Meadowlands.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 4:03 am

So if they’d made it a two-track, two-platform station, and then continued it into Grand Central lower level, it might have cost about the same amount and been more effective.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 4:02 am

So connecting GCT to Penn would cost $3.5 billion as previously estimated — plus real estate costs, which could be another $10 billion — and anything else is an ass-pull.

It’s actually a much simpler project than it appears. First, yes, you use the M8s or similar rolling stock. Second, you don’t need to do much work on GCT itself… except punch through the wall. It was actually set up to allow for the tracks to continue south.

There’s some difficulty in getting under the subway, and then there’s a corner which has to be turned under a building. That is all.

No interference with current service during construction. Big hole in the street in front of GCT, probably.

webster January 25, 2016 - 4:31 pm

The RFP was released.


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