The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick
 

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September 20, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 38

Copyright © 2010
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 11th Newsletter Year

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
New Jersey Governor Orders Halt To Construction
   Of $8.7b ARC Project
APTA Transit Petition On The Web
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Across The Pond…
Stuttgart 21 Project Debate Causes Parliament Chaos
A Tale Of Two Train Stations In Two Cities
   On Two Continents
  Commentary…
The ARC Moratorium: Politicians Scramble Rail Advocates
   Fight, And Costs Climb
  Publication Notes …


Delayed publication - We apologize for the delay publishing this week’s edition of Destination: Freedom.
The webmaster was briefly detained at the hospital for a medical procedure and was away from computers - DMK

 

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...  

A Stunner…

 

New Jersey Governor Orders Halt
To Construction Of $8.7b ARC Project

By Df Staff

TRENTON --- In a development that stunned people on all sides of the issue, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie has ordered a halt to construction of the $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core (“ARC”) project, a pair of tunnels connecting New Jersey Transit commuter rail service to a new stub-end train station to be built deep under 34th Street in Manhattan.

The issue, New Jersey Transit officials said, is cost: the Governor has insisted that all sources of funding for the project be identified, before the project can be re-started. Christie, a fiscal conservative, has also been battling to contain New Jersey’s large state deficit, which is fueled in part by state pension fund obligation that are under-funded by billions of dollars. Other states face similar funding problems, but New Jersey is among the most fiscally challenged of the states.

Christie has expressed skepticism that the project’s $8.7 billion announced price tag is realistic, and that in any event whether its funding, as NJT has claimed, is in place; Federal officials have also reportedly been asking NJT probing questions about that subject.

The ARC project as being built has also bitterly divided regional transportation advocates, a number of whom objected to major mid-stream design changes several years ago that abandoned the project’s original objective --- not better New Jersey Transit rail service to Manhattan via two new under-Hudson River tubes, but with new platforms along the south side of Pennsylvania Station, and then with their continuation under Manhattan on to Grand Central Terminal --- which would then become “Grand Central Station”, as it is usually but inaccurately called --- and then up through the Bronx to New England or upstate New York State, to one in which the New Jersey Transit trains simply stop at the stub-end terminals in under 34th Street

The project halt-and-review story was first reported in The Star-Ledger of Newark. (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/09/nj_halts_new_work_on_87b_ny-nj.html)

One of the project’s chief sponsors and long a backer of rail transit project’s, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was reported to be livid at Gov. Christie.

In a release from his press office, Lautenberg and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) as well as Reps. Albio Sires (D-NJ-13), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ-06), Steve Rothman (D-NJ-09) and Assemblyman John Wisniewski “...urged Governor Chris Christie to get the project back on track. The state’s current halt on the project could cost New Jersey thousands of jobs and lead to the loss of billions in funding from the federal government and the Port Authority. 

“The ARC Tunnel is slated to receive $3 billion in federal funds, the largest federal contribution to a mass transit project in the history of the nation, and $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The project will create 6,000 construction related jobs a year and 44,000 permanent jobs once completed. It will get 22,000 cars off the roads every day and eliminate nearly 70,000 tons of harmful greenhouse gasses gases every year,” stated Lautenberg’s office.

“The ARC Tunnel project is New Jersey’s best opportunity to put people to work and repair the economy,” said Lautenberg, who as a member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee has led the federal funding effort in Washington. ”Killing this project would cost our state thousands of good paying jobs and send billions of dollars slated for New Jersey off to other projects around the country. The Governor must work to advance the ARC Tunnel so that we can boost New Jersey’s economic recovery and avoid a future of busier highways, longer commutes and more pollution. Let’s get this project back on track and get this tunnel built.”

“Stalling this project is putting the $3 billion of federal funds at risk and state investment in this project is necessary, especially during these hard economic times,” said Sires. ”This project is good for the economy – it will fund 6,000 construction jobs and in the long-term create over 45,000 permanent jobs.”

“The Hudson Tunnel project is crucial to the stability of New Jersey’s economy,” said Pallone. ”Aside from creating thousands of construction and engineering jobs, it would also ease an over-burdened commuter rail system and create much-needed infrastructure in New Jersey.

The federal government has invested $3 billion in this project, and moving forward with it is important to maintaining this investment. I urge the governor to move forward with this project.”

“The ARC Tunnel provides a needed capability to our aging and overburdened transportation infrastructure, creates jobs, and improves the business and non-business quality of life for the people of our region,” stated Rep. Rothman.

“We’ve got a major impending disaster on our hands with the decision to put ARC on hold,” said Rob Freudenberg, New Jersey Director of Regional Plan Association. ”There is not a more clear-cut instance of a project with tremendous public benefits that will improve the region for decades to come. Having a showdown over the project’s potential increasing costs could mean we end up losing the biggest transit project -- and perhaps the largest job creation project-- in America. This would be an enormous loss to the NY - NJ region and the Northeast if it were to happen. We urge all parties involved from the State to the FTA to the Port Authority to resolve this issue quickly to get ARC back on track.”

Other transportation advocates saw the project halt as exactly the result they had expected when the original region-wide scope of the project – with new Penn Station platforms and service, and on-going connections to New England and upstate New York via Grand Central Terminal/Station --- was abandoned in favor of a New Jersey-centric tunnel system dead-ending under 34th Street with no other system, such as Amtrak, able to use or benefit from the project as originally envisioned.


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APTA Transit Petition On The Web

From The American Public Transportation Association

WASHINGTON --- The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is urging transit supporters to log in and sign on to a key transit petition asking Congress to act on the long-delayed surface transportation bill.

The petition reads:

“Transportation is a vital part of my community, and it benefits riders and non-riders. We cannot afford to delay any longer. Now is the time for Congress to act and pass a long-term surface transportation bill that increases investment in public transportation. By investing now, we can create jobs, strengthen our economy, reduce our dependence on oil, protect our environment and create a better quality of life.”

The petition can be found at: http://www.publictransportation.org/petition/


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)64.1863.06
Canadian Pacific (CP) 61.6861.36
CSX (CSX)54.9054.72
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)41.9741.72
Kansas City Southern (KSU)38.5638.18
Norfolk Southern (NSC)58.4558.85
Providence & Worcester(PWX)13.2012.15
Union Pacific (UNP)79.9678.73


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Stuttgart 21 Project Debate
Causes Parliament Chaos

Train Station Project Controversy Stumps German Politicians In Berlin

Via HAZ Newspaper

Berlin – The highly controversial “Stuttgart 21” project entered a new phase this past week as it became a political football for various factions in Germany’s lower parliamentary house, officially named the Bundestag. Escalating protests over the massive multi-billion euro project, which aims to convert the existing surface level stub-ended passenger train terminal into an underground through train station, have obviously puzzled a large number of politicians in Germany’s parliament. Many parliament members were clearly confused and surprised how the project – which has been proposed in one form or another for the last three decades and has passed a numerous political, environmental, financial and social planning reviews and tests and attracted a broad spectrum of support from numerous political factions on the left, right and in the center – is now suddenly a hot political potato that appears ready to explode.

Train Station

Conceptual Image: Deutsche Bahn

Massive Heart Attack? Deutsche Bahn, the German federal government and the German state of Baden-Württenberg promote Stuttgart 21 as “the new heart of Europe.” With just 8 tracks and four platforms, pro-rail advocacy groups believe the new underground station will become a choke point for a number of rail lines in the region, including the Paris – Vienna – Budapest corridor – along which the famed Orient Express once traveled.

Despite its pro-Stuttgart 21 position, the left-leaning Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is in the minority in Parliament, proposed a total freeze on construction of Stuttgart 21 and a new referendum on the project, which would either make the construction-stop permanent or allow the project to continue. The surprising new position of the SPD party resulted in the resignation of the Stuttgart 21 Project’s chief spokesman, Wolfgang Drexler, who is also a longtime SPD member and part of the party’s leadership.

The center-right CSU/ CDU majority in Parliament indicated via CSU member and current federal transportation minister, Peter Ramauser, their impatience with anti-Stuttgart 21 protesters with a rather tersely worded statement: “This project has developed over many years in accordance with all regulatory reviews and laws of every possible aspect. It is not acceptable that demonstrators now try to impose legal blockades in order to stop the project.” The Stuttgart 21 Project actually received the final go-ahead in the previous government from his predecessor, Wolfgang Tiefensee of the opposition SPD political party.

The Green Party members of Parliament voiced their opposition to Stuttgart 21 and stated once again that the project is an “unaffordable undertaking.” The conservative-leaning pro-business and anti-tax FDP political party heaped on more criticism: “In no other European country would the citizens be bound and forced to stay the course as is the case here in Germany.”

An ET 424 EMU train-set undergoes inspection

Photo: David Beale

Left Up In The Air – many people in Germany are concerned that Stuttgart 21 will eliminate funding for other rail projects and operations elsewhere in Germany for a decade or more. An ET 424 EMU train-set undergoes inspection on a lift at DB Regio’s Hannover-Leinhausen maintenance depot on 12th September 2010. This maintenance depot, along with the commuter trains it inspects and repairs, were made possible by government funding for regional passenger rail transit, which may be threatened in the next ten years by the massive Stuttgart 21 project.

The main supporters of Stuttgart 21 include Deutsche Bahn, which is one of the largest employers and corporations in Germany, a number of trade unions whose members will be involved in the nine-year long construction project; much of the CDU/CSU party, who sees the project as a catalyst for business and industry and a good return for tax money invested into the project; and much of SPD party, whose membership is primary made up of the previously mentioned labor unions.

The main opposition to Stuttgart 21 comes from, ironically, all of the major pro-rail transit advocacy organizations in Germany, because of their concerns about the rather small size of the new station (only 8 tracks) as well as an overwhelming fear that the exploding costs of the project will result in a serious lack of future funding for other smaller but important rail transit projects elsewhere in Germany. Additional opposition come from the Green Party and various environmentalists who believe that the underground tunneling and other construction will unnecessarily damage the local environment as well as having a cost/benefit ration that is too low to justify the cost of the project. Other opposition includes many neighborhood groups in the Stuttgart region which will be directly affected by nearby construction and noise, as well as numerous citizens who do not want the historic Stuttgart central train station building altered.


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View From Europe

 

A Tale Of Two Train Stations In
Two Cities On Two Continents

New York’s Proposed ARC Deep Cavern Terminal And Stuttgart’s
Proposed Not-So-Deep Sub-Surface Station Collide With Reality

Hannover – As I read David Peter Alan’s continuing coverage of the highly controversial ARC Project in New Jersey and New York City, I can not help but compare it with the political drama here in Germany which has erupted rather suddenly (in the last 12 months) over Stuttgart 21. Although there are many parallels, there are also important differences. But a common theme is shared between the two projects: major rail transportation projects which have the full support of politicians and bureaucrats but seem to be at complete odds with the traveling public which has to pay for, use and live with these stations for decades to come.

 Stuttgart 21ARC
Location Downtown Stuttgart with new tunnels
to the northwest and southeast, plus
a new high-speed line to Ulm
Midtown Manhattan with new tunnels under
the Hudson River and rail connection to existing
rail lines in Northern New Jersey
Metro Area
Population:
2.7 million 8.8 million
Current Station
Configuration
Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof
Dead-end terminal
New York Penn Station
underground thru-station
Existing Tracks 17 (not including 2
underground S-Bahn tracks)
21 (not including
subway lines)
Existing Platforms: 9 11
Passenger flow: 220,000 per day 640,000 per day
Construction
period:
2010 thru 2019 2010 thru 2018
Future tracks: 8 underground thru-tracks plus 2
existingS-Bahn thru tracks
6 new dead-end remotely located tracks plus
21 existing thru tracks in Penn Station
Depth below street: 8 meters (26 ft.) 55 meters (180 ft.)
Projected Cost: US $5.3 billion (excluding
high-speed rail line to Ulm)
US $8.7 billion
Opposed by: Pro-Bahn, VCD, Allianz Pro-Schiene,
Bundis 90, The Green Party,
...and others
National Association of Rail Passengers, NJ-ARP,
NJ-Sierra Club, Rail Users Network, Lackawanna Coalition,
...and others

As an outsider, I do not understand why commuter and regional trains from New Jersey can not continue past Penn Station to Long Island and vice-versa with LIRR commuter trains. I realize that the two rail systems do not share the same electrification standard, but this seems like a minor technical issue which can be relatively easily overcome. Dual voltage trains are already in use on Metro North in the New York area out of Grand Central Station to Connecticut, and similar dual voltage / third rail / overhead catenary trains are in operation in the greater London, England area as well as in Hamburg, Germany, in a mode of operation that is quite similar to Metro North between GCT and Connecticut.

The real pinch-point in New York is not the number of train platforms in Penn Station (or in a man-made cave to be built under Penn Station), but rather the number of tracks from Penn Station to New Jersey and beyond. Or perhaps the pinch-point is in the mind-set of politicians and transit administrators who would rather pay attention to high-priced consultants, as seems to be the case in Stuttgart, rather than listening to the voice of the traveling public which has to live and pay for the consequences of their decisions for several generations to come.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

The ARC Moratorium: Politicians Scramble
Rail Advocates Fight, And Costs Climb

First Of A Series
By David Peter Alan

The transit world was shocked as New Jersey announced a 30-day moratorium on new contracts and land acquisition for the proposed “ARC” Tunnel project between New Jersey and New York City.

The project, which New Jersey Transit has called sequentially: “Access to the Region’s Core” (ARC), the “Trans-Hudson Express (THE) Tunnel” and now the “Mass Transit Tunnel” (MTT) have been controversial ever since plans to extend the reach of New Jersey’s riders to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan were scrapped in 2003.

The construction halt was called to resolve a difference of opinion between Federal officials and New Jersey Transit about the cost of the project. Any increase in cost will be entirely New Jersey’s responsibility, dollar for dollar.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered a thorough examination of the cost of the project. This has been reported in the local media and elsewhere in this edition of D: F. Christie campaigned on the issue of waste in government, and New Jersey’s impending financial difficulties. Rail advocates have said repeatedly that the proposed deep cavern terminal is unaffordable, with a price tag of more than $3 billion in excess of the cost of the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative. The Moynihan plan would allow connectivity between all rail lines, including Amtrak, and also permit an affordable extension to the East Side.

The most controversial item is a proposed deep-cavern, dead-end terminal that would be located twenty stories below Thirty-Fourth Street on Manhattan’s West Side, one block north of the existing Penn Station.

The new tunnels under the Hudson River to the proposed terminal would not go into the existing Penn Station, so Amtrak could not use it, and it would not offer connectivity to trains going to the existing Penn Station. In addition, the current plan effectively precludes expansion to the East Side, which was a key goal of the original ARC concept. Advocates for rail riders propose dropping the proposed deep-cavern terminal and replacing it with the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, which would bring new tracks to an enhanced Penn Station.

There is little objection to new tracks and the tunnels under the Hudson River that would house them, either from politicians or from rail advocates. Essentially, everybody wants more capacity into the City. Rail advocates in and beyond the region have been increasingly vocal about the lack of funds available for New Jersey’s share of the cost of the project, now stated at $10.4 billion and apparently rising, including the cost of the Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement Project (Portal), a necessary component of the overall ARC mega-project.

During World War II, radio commentators who followed the battles for their listeners often opened their commentaries with the phrase: “Here’s what we know at this time.” Concerning the Battle of the Deep Cavern, here’s what else we know at this time:

Commissioner James Simpson of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, who also serves as Chair of the NJT Board of Directors, is a major player in this drama. Simpson is thoroughly familiar with transit issues and with the project in question; he was head of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in January, 2009, when the Record of Decision (ROD) for the project was issued. Now, in a New Jersey capacity, Simpson sits at the center of the controversy and is undoubtedly playing a major role in formulating any plan.

For its own part, the FTA appears to be deeply concerned about delays and cost overruns on major projects. FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, Simpson’s successor, has said that the FTA takes very seriously a transit provider’s availability of local funds to complete a project on time.

In a letter to Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) dated June 18, 2010, Rogoff said: “I want to assure you that not a single penny of additional Federal Section 5309 New Starts dollars will be used to fund these delays and cost overruns.” He was referring to significant cost overruns and delays in two of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) projects: the proposed Second Avenue Subway and the “East Side Access” Project for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), a project very similar to NJT’s proposed deep-cavern terminal.

At this writing, the FTA has not yet issued a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the NJT project, even though the ROD was issued over 20 months ago. Rail advocates in the region consider such a long period without an FFGA to be extraordinary.

According to rail advocate Joseph M. Clift, the FTA’s concern is well-founded. “The FTA is acting like a prudent bank that is asked to issue a mortgage for construction of a new home. If the price of the home is higher than the bank and owner expect it to be, the bank would take an undue risk, unless the owner can demonstrate the ability to pay the additional cost. So would the FTA, if a transit project’s cost exceeds the original estimate.”

Clift, who served as Director of Planning for the LIRR, is Chair of the Technical Committee of the Lackawanna Coalition and speaks for the Regional Rail Working Group at NJT Board meetings and legislative hearings.

If the FTA were to issue an FFGA, the agency would commit $3 billion to the cost of the project. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is prepared to commit another $3 billion, which leaves $2.7 billion in matching funds that the State of New Jersey must pay, at the currently-stated price of $8.7 billion for the ARC Project alone. Portal would cost an additional $1.7 billion, for an overall total of $10.4 billion, and NJT has not stated how Portal would be funded. Even without Portal, the current $8.7 billion cost for ARC alone may no longer be valid.

It was revealed at a meeting of the NJT Board of Directors on September 10th that a flyover at Hunter Interlocking on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) must also be built as part of the project. NJT’s Raritan Valley Line (RVL) trains come onto the NEC at that point, south of Newark Penn Station. RVL trains coming into Newark must cross the southbound tracks of the NEC; a situation which interferes with NEC operations. A flyover would resolve this conflict, but would also raise the cost of the project by $200 to $300 million.

The estimated cost of the project has been rising steadily.

In February, 2007, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) placed the cost at $7.4 billion. Thirteen months later (March, 2008), a Supplemental DEIS (SDEIS) called for a price of $7.65 billion, but the new plan called for a smaller (six-track, rather than eight-track) 34th St. deep-cavern terminal, and the track connection to the existing Penn Station was eliminated. These changes saved $1.2 billion in costs at that time, but rendered ARC unusable for Amtrak and the NJT trains that would still go to Penn Station, as well as effectively precluding East Side Access for New Jersey riders.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), issued in October, 2008, originally estimated the cost of ARC at $7.6 billion. On the “abstract” page, the cost was increased by $1.5 billion (20%), to $9.1 billion, a number apparently derived through negotiations between NJT and the FTA regarding reasonable contingencies for the project.

This was then reduced to $8.7 billion (all of these numbers are in Year of Expenditure dollars), by omitting the $400 million cost of rolling stock required by anticipated ridership projections after service begins. These costs still do not include the $2 billion that will be needed to build Portal and the flyover at Hunter.

Including equipment cost, the price of the ARC part of the project (excluding Portal) rose by 23% in the twenty months from February, 2007 to October, 2008. Had the project not been reduced in scope, the increase would have been 43%, because a project of the original magnitude would have cost $10.6 billion. Now, the FTA is concerned that NJT’s current number of $8.7 billion for the reduced project will not be enough to pay for it. Any increase in cost beyond that amount will be borne entirely by the State of New Jersey, and rail advocates doubt that New Jersey can afford it.

Much of the political establishment and NJT management are scrambling to defend the entire project, with a deep-cavern terminal, as well as to find money to pay for it. It has been proposed that a private-public partnership be established to build the project, with a surcharge on rail fares that would require riders to pay for the project.

Some office holders and opinion leaders, including Newark Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine (along with other columnists) and Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren) have said publicly that the cost of the proposed deep-cavern terminal is too high. Columnist Bob Ingle of the Asbury Park Press likened the proposed deep-cavern terminal to the “Big Dig” in Boston, calling it “Corzine’s Big Dig, the train tunnel from Xanadu to Macy’s basement.” Most of the rail advocacy community, both locally and elsewhere in the region and the nation, agree. The advocates believe that an enhanced Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative would serve rail riders better and save at least $3 billion in construction costs.

As Clift wrote in the current issue of the Railgram, the newsletter of the Lackawanna Coalition: “the best way to guarantee receiving federal funds is to bring the cost of the project to a price New Jersey can demonstrate it can afford.” According to Clift and other advocates, bringing new tunnels and tracks into an expanded and vastly improved Moynihan/Penn Station would not only increase capacity, but it would also enable both NJT and Amtrak trains to use the new ARC tunnels and provide for an affordable extension to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan; improvements that were dropped from the original ARC Project and that the proposed deep-cavern terminal will not deliver.

At this writing, the shock of the announcement of the halt to new ARC construction has not worn off, and the battle appears to be heating up. NJT has canceled the Board meeting scheduled for October 13th. The NJT Board will not meet again until November 10th; marking a four-month gap between meetings at the agency’s Newark headquarters (the September 10th meeting was held in Atlantic City). The cancellation notice was released on September 14th; 29 days before the scheduled meeting date and only two days after the work halt was announced. Such long notice of a Board meeting cancellation is rare, if not unprecedented.

Still, the riders remain caught in the middle, and they are the people who may or may not have to live with the inconvenience that the proposed deep-cavern terminal would bring. They may have to pay vastly increased fares, as well, even though most rail fares recently increased by 25% and round-trip fares outside peak commuting hours went up by 47% to as much as 64%. Jeff Tittel, Chair of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, which also opposes the proposed deep-cavern terminal, has called the affected passengers the “riders of the lost ARC.” How much those riders will be inconvenienced for a grandiose project is the subject of the current battle.

That is what we know at this time. We may know more next week, we may know more next month, or it may take longer than that before we know much more. One thing we do know is that New Jersey will have a difficult time paying for the project, if a deep-cavern terminal remains part of it. At this writing, it appears that New Jersey, with its diminishing resources, will have a difficult time meeting this financial challenge, despite the efforts of the politicians and transit managers who favor the project as currently proposed. This challenge will be the subject of the next article in this series.

[David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, which supports additional capacity, while opposing the construction of a deep-cavern terminal under Midtown Manhattan. The Coalition and other rail advocacy organizations support the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, which would connect the new ARC tracks and tunnels into an expanded and vastly improved Penn Station].


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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