Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reports Indicate Gov. Christie To Can ARC Tunnel After Feds Refuse To Adjust Financing

Gov. Chris Christie is following through on his threat to cancel the ARC Tunnel project after it appears that the federal government refused to address cost overruns. New Jersey would be forced to pick up any cost overruns, while NJ Transit, Port Authority and the federal government (the other financing partners) would not be liable for the overruns.

The $8.7 billion project, which would build two new rail tunnels into Manhattan terminating at a separate location under Herald Square was a poorly conceived project particularly on the New York side. Additional capacity is absolutely essential for Northeast Corridor traffic, but the new tunnel would not sufficiently address capacity because the new tunnels would not travel to Penn Station and lacks the storage yard access for rush hour trains. Delays such as those that occurred this week would still occur because capacity at Penn Station is not addressed.

NJ Transit claimed that its new terminus under Herald Square was necessary because of engineering conditions near the original Hudson River tunnels, but Amtrak has floated its own twin tunnel proposal, strongly suggesting that the NJ Transit plan had other intentions rather than merely adding capacity.

Moreover, NJ Transit has failed to show that it has the operating budget to handle a major new facility.

It can barely operate the facilities it has now at the level of service it currently has. NJ Transit cut service earlier this year while raising fares because it was facing a budget deficit. That situation isn't changing anytime soon, and New Jersey isn't going to pitch in with more funding anytime soon. Thus, even if the tunnel is built, where exactly is the new service into Manhattan going to come from? New trains aren't going to be scheduled. Additional service from North Jersey isn't going to happen - or if it is- that means reduced service into Hoboken (which is a closer commute for those working in Lower Manhattan). Further, the widely touted one-seat ride from North Jersey into Manhattan would make the $1 billion boondoggle Secaucus Transfer all but obsolete since passengers would not need to transfer to head into Manhattan.

Dual powered locomotives that it purchased for this use would come in handy though. That $300+ million deal with Bombardier could reduce pollution around Hoboken Terminal significantly as diesel trains could be phased out in favor of the dual powered locomotives that could draw power from the overhead lines as they enter the tunnels west of Hoboken.

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