The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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 27, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 39

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

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

  News Items…
High-Speed Rail In U.S. Stalled By Freight Railroads
  News From Amtrak…
  Selected Rail Stocks…
Amtrak On Board With Moynihan
  Across The Pond…
Innotrans 2010 Highlights Rail Transit
Railroading The Future
New Jersey Calls Moratorium On ARC Project Construction:
   Can The Garden State Afford Its Share?
A Solution To The ARC Fiasco
  Publication Notes …

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...  

High-Speed Rail In U.S.
Stalled By Freight Railroads

From Wall Street Journal

SEPTEMBER 21 -- A Wall Street Journal story by Jennifer Levitz highlights the single biggest obstacle to implementing Obama’s plan for the United States to have a national high speed rail network -- the ownership of our existing rail lines.

Vast corridors of railroad tracks crisscross the United States, but at least 90% of this network is owned by the freight railroads, unlike European and Asian countries where dedicated high speed rail corridors have been built. To use the corridors owned by freight rail companies, the U.S. must upgrade and add much capacity to the exiting lines. This will take billions of dollars but to build a national network of new high speed corridors would be vastly more expensive and take far longer to complete.

The problem right now is that the freight railroads balk at sharing tracks with trains that will ultimately reach speeds of between 90 and 200 miles per hour. Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and other railroad companies argue that “mixing high-speed passenger trains with slower freight trains would create safety risks, prevent future expansion and cause congestion.

“Cargo would be pushed to their competitors—trucking firms—the railroads [say], just as freight loads are picking up after the recession. Weekly average carloads in August were the highest since November 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads, the industry’s main trade group.”

While state and railroad official struggle to “hammer out” partnership deals required to receive federal funds, arguments about train speeds and other problems of sharing rights-of-way are constantly stalling the process. Of the $8 billion in stimulus funds targeted for high speed rail, only $597 million has been awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration and another $286 million is scheduled to go out the door soon, the FRA said.

“Regrettably, the difficulty in achieving timely stakeholder agreements between the states and freight railroads has delayed putting Americans to work and building the rail system of the future,” John Porcari, deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation testified last Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Federal officials argue that investment to improve and expand the rail infrastructure would be a huge benefit to the freight railroads. But “John Gray, senior vice president of policy and economics at the Association of American Railroads, says the stimulus funding pales in comparison to the $460 billion railroads have sunk into their own infrastructure over the past 30 years.”

In California, plans for high speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with trains running up to 220 mph, have been on the planning boards for years. On September 2, Union Pacific announced to the California High Speed Rail Authority that they do not want the high speed corridor in, or near, its right-of-way.

Some progress may be possible, however. Union Pacific Chief Executive James Young said the Omaha, Neb., railroad was “committed to working through the issues” related to high-speed rail nationwide. “We may not be able to get there on every project, but we will work toward that goal,” he said.

How it works now

Under FRA rules, high-speed passenger trains traveling between 90 mph and 125 mph can share tracks with freight railroads, while trains going between 125 mph and 250 mph must run on a separate track. Currently, Amtrak’s conventional trains, which go up to 79 mph, share tracks with freight railroads in most of the country.

For complete story and visuals:

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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  


Image: Wikipedia

Amtrak On Board With Moynihan

From Chelsea Now On The Internet

SEPTEMBER 24 –The long-awaited Moynihan Station project, which is planned to be opened in the historic Farley Post Office building, received a boost recently when Amtrak agreed to move its operations across Eighth Avenue.

According to the story in Chelsea Now online, “Amtrak, a key component to the project,” made the agreement when a deal was struck for the train operator to share in the revenue generated from the retail outlets included in the expanded station.

“This is all around good news,” wrote Juliette Michaelson, of the Friends of Moynihan Station and a senior planner with the Regional Plan Association, on the Friends’ Web site. “By moving to the historic Farley Post Office, Amtrak will gain a world-class flagship building for its busiest and most important station. All three transit agencies (NJ Transit, MTA-LIRR and Amtrak) will benefit from a more efficient and spacious Moynihan Station complex, east and west of Eighth Avenue, with Amtrak relocated to Farley. Finally, the fact that Amtrak and the State of New York are working in partnership helps to clear the way for federal stimulus funding, which is necessary to see the project through.”

The cost to build Moynihan Station, estimated to be as much as $1.5 billion, will be aided by the hundreds of millions of federal dollars already allocated for the project.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)64.5064.18
Canadian Pacific (CP) 62.4261.68
CSX (CSX)56.1454.90
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)42.9741.97
Kansas City Southern (KSU)39.1438.56
Norfolk Southern (NSC)59.8858.45
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.5513.20
Union Pacific (UNP)82.1079.96

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

By David Beale, NCI Foreign Editor


Innotrans 2010 Highlights Rail Transit

NCI Visits Huge Rail Technology Show in Berlin – Part 1

BERLIN– The world’s largest collection of new rail vehicles not yet scarred by graffiti or wear and tear – otherwise known as InnoTrans – took place this past week in Berlin, as it does in every even numbered year. Each time, the trade fare and convention grows even more than the previous show two years earlier. This year the presence of China and other Asian countries was prominently on display. But as before, the main focus of most exhibitors and participants was railroading in greater Europe, covering an area from the British Isles to the Black and Caspian Seas and the northern border of the Middle East, as well as Russia and its neighboring countries in western and central Asia.

All photos courtesy of David Beale.

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Monster Mash – Bombardier’s massive dual mode electric / diesel ALP-45DP passenger locomotive for NJ Transit and Montreal’s AMT transport agencies was on display. The locomotive is a derivative of the ALP 46 electric locomotive, but fitted with two Caterpillar V-12 diesel engines which provide the propulsion power to the traction motors when the locomotive operates beyond electrified tracks.


At 132 metric tons of weight (145 US tons) on just four axles, the monster locomotive posed some logistics difficulties with its trip from Kassel, where it was assembled, to Berlin, since relatively few rail lines in Germany and the rest of Europe are rated for 30 metric tons per axle, much less 35 tons, which is nearly what this beast weighs. More typical across Europe is 25 tons per axle capacity. The ALP-45D is believed to be the first ever series produced dual mode locomotive which can operate from high voltage AC railway electrification.


The American content of this locomotive is relatively high, despite being built in Germany, the Caterpillar diesel engines from Lafayette, Indiana (Bombardier normally uses MTU diesel engines made in Germany), plus couplers, brake valves, numerous switches and circuit breakers, and many other parts from the USA.

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A diesel version MTU 4000 series V-16 engine

Triple Threat – Siemens had three of its new Vectron series locomotives on display, a diesel-only version, an AC-only version and a multi-system version (3 kV DC, 15 kVAC and 25 kVAC). The interior photo is from the diesel version with the MTU 4000 series V-16 engine and traction generator in view.

A diesel version MTU 4000

Although these locomotives can be used for passenger trains, the main market for such locomotives is clearly the rail freight sector.

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New subway cars for Rome’s Line C metro line from Ansaldo Breda

Ciao Baby! New subway cars for Rome’s Line C metro line from Ansaldo Breda were on display. In an expanding trend with subways and metros that spans from Tokyo, Vancouver, Paris, Nuremberg, Copenhagen and Dubai, these rail vehicles for Rome do away with the train driver via fully automatic operation. For emergency use there are manual controls available to the staff, as seen in the second photo.

New subway cars for Rome’s Line C metro line from Ansaldo Breda

The train is equipped throughout with LCD passenger information displays near each door which show the train’s current position on the transit line along with the next stops and connecting train / bus information – also becoming a global standard in transit.

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A three-car train-set for Hamburg Hochbahn from Alston / Bombardier

Where’s the wheels? A three-car train-set for Hamburg’s subway / elevated railway system (Hamburg Hochbahn) from Alston / Bombardier were also at InnoTrans. The train set has just four wheel trucks for three cars, the two end cars are suspended from the center car.

A three-car train-set for Hamburg Hochbahn from Alston / Bombardier

The train has LCD passenger information displays near each door, similar to the cars destined for Rome, and already a standard for recent urban rolling stock in most of Europe and Asia. The USA lags very far behind in this aspect of keeping transit passengers and customers well informed of where they are and what is coming.

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A new Bombardier Itino DMU

Wave of the future – A new Bombardier Itino DMU (diesel multiple unit) train sets in-service in suburban rail operation in Frankfurt, Germany was also open for viewing. The decade-long trend in Europe away from locomotive-hauled rolling stock towards either DMU or EMU train-sets continues unabated.

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Blast from the Past – Slovakian rolling stock manufacturer ZOS displayed a pair of first and second class coaches remanufactured from older stock into like-new condition. ZOS and several other eastern European manufactures also produce new locomotive-hauled inter-city passenger rolling stock similar to this. However the market for such rolling stock is dwindling quickly. Most western and central European passenger rail operators have stopped buying such rolling stock for intercity services many years ago, and instead have purchased or leased various types of self-propelled train-sets. A low level of demand for new passenger cars of this configuration continues to exist in the former Warsaw-Pact countries of Eastern Europe, as they gradually replace and scrap out similar rolling stock that is approaching a half-century in service.

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 Zefiro 380 series very-high-speed EMU train-set at InnoTrans

Looks Fast Standing Still – Bombardier had a full-size mock-up of the head car of its Zefiro 380 series very-high-speed EMU train-set at InnoTrans. This mock-up actually served as a theater to show InnoTrans visitors the many possible interior configurations and features of Zefiro with a 3-D interactive movie. The Zefiro 380 will soon enter service in China. A somewhat similar model, the Zefiro V300, has recently been ordered by Trenitalia for operations in Italy and to neighboring France and Switzerland.

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Alstom road-switcher - diesel-hybrid locomotive

Batteries Included – Alstom showed its road-switcher diesel-hybrid locomotive. This locomotive is similar in concept to “gen-set” locomotives in use in North America. The Alston diesel-hybrid locomotive can operate from internal storage batteries alone for short intervals and recovers energy during braking by using the traction motors to generate electric current to recharge the batteries. Aside from saving considerable amount of fuel, this reduces both engine operating time, which lower engine maintenance costs and exhaust emissions.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

[ Editor’s note: This commentary was published in the Hartford Advocate September 20. It was written after Mr. Bisbort read my Op-ed - “Busway? Restoring Rail Is A Better Way To Go” in the Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, May 2, 2010 regarding the New Britain-Hartford Busway.

The busway is a controversial project whose costs have sky rocketed since the original estimates were released in the late 1990’s when the project was first conceived. Restoring the rail line which is in that same corridor – part of which would be paved over if the busway is built – would be far less costly and serve many more communities. ]


Railroading The Future

Celebrating Trains, Buses And The Cutting-Back On Automobiles

By Alan Bisbort
Free lance writer
Reprinted with permission

Two clear messages arrived on these shores in the past month. First, China passed Japan to become the world’s second-biggest economy. Second, a traffic jam formed outside Beijing that recalled the plot from a J.G. Ballard novel. The jam extended 60 miles and lasted weeks; people were stuck in their cars for so long that a separate black market economy broke out.

These messages are related — that is, China’s “booming” economy has a hidden, horrific price tag — just as the implications for us are clear: Limits exist and we have reached them.

Here in the U.S., 60-mile-long traffic jams seem far-fetched, but if you’ve ever driven highways in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Ventura counties, you can see that they are only, ahem, just down the road if we continue on current trajectories. But it is hard, if not impossible, to break this mold when our transportation priorities are dictated by the oil lobby, which pours money into the wallets of politicians to continue expanding highways while doing nothing for rail transportation. This way of looking at long-term solutions has been in place for so long it’s genetically encoded in politicians. Electric- or solar-powered cars are good ideas, but they are still cars, requiring ever more highways, and the mindset is always: When all else fails, pave over more of the countryside.

President Obama at least seems cognizant of the problem. In his Labor Day address, he said that over the next six years, “We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways — enough to stretch coast-to-coast.” But then, he also said “we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads — enough to circle the world six times.”

Precisely because of this broken-record approach, Molly McKay of Mystic, Conn., founded Stop Stealth Highways, a grassroots organization that focuses on halting needless highway construction. Lately, she has her eyes on the (booby) prize called the “New Britain to Hartford busway,” a proposed 9.4-mile corridor of asphalt built exclusively for buses to connect just four communities. The busway would not only pave over existing rail lines, it would cost an estimated $570 million (which means twice that). It’s a project idea that was hatched in the 1990s, when gas was cheaper and we were running budget surpluses.

“If you compare the cost of replacing track on rail lines that are already in place with the cost of building new roads, it’s crazy to even consider the latter,” says McKay, who is also transportation chair for the state chapter of the Sierra Club. “Just think of spending $600 million to build nine miles of concrete. A busway has never been done in Connecticut, and its time has already come and gone.”

McKay and other rail proponents are not against buses. “Buses are the greatest feeder system the rail lines have and the lifeline for people who don’t have cars,” she says.

Meanwhile, the long-planned Springfield-to-New Haven rail line project is awaiting the political will to put it in place. Massachusetts already has the funding, and New Hampshire and Vermont are ready to extend the line north from Springfield to Canada. Connecticut is going to look like New England’s slacker if they don’t get “all aboard.”

To celebrate this age-old American icon, show up in Essex, Connecticut, on Saturday, Oct. 2, to meet author/musician Gordon Titcomb and artist Wendell Minor who combined forces to create The Last Train, a tribute to “the Big Iron Horse” itself. Engine No. 40, based in Essex, was the model for the book’s main “character.” Visit

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New Jersey Calls Moratorium On ARC Project Construction:
Can The Garden State Afford Its Share?

Second In A Series

By David Peter Alan

In the first article in this series (DF September 20), we explored the rising costs of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project that would build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River to a proposed deep-cavern terminal twenty stories below Thirty-Fourth Street in Manhattan. This line would not be useful for Amtrak, nor would it take riders to the existing Penn Station or be expanded to the East Side, all of which was planned in the original ARC project design.

As costs escalate, the question before many New Jerseyans, including in the State Legislature, is whether or not New Jersey can pay for its share of the cost. In light of recent developments, the answer appears to be “NO!”

Governor calls for moratorium

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called a 30-day moratorium to new contracts and real estate acquisitions on the project, as reported in the Newark Star-Ledger on Sunday, September 12th, in response to discussions between NJT and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) over risks involved with the project, and whether those risks require an increase in the anticipated cost of the project. Advocates for rail riders, both in the New Jersey-New York area and outside the region, have expressed concern that the project is unaffordable. They have also expressed concern for the project itself which they believe to be deeply flawed. To quote D:F publisher Jim RePass, this is “an era when no one in Europe or Asia is even CONSIDERING dead-end train terminals in major cities, for the obvious reason that they are deeply stupid.”

Advocates strongly prefer the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, which would bring new tracks and the tunnels which would house them, into an enhanced rail hub that would use the existing Penn Station and the historic Farley Post Office building across the street from it. The proposed station would provide capacity for Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road, all NJT trains that go to New York and possible future Metro-North service. The plan could also be extended to the East Side in the future. NJT has already determined that an extension of the line to Grand Central Terminal can be constructed at a reasonable cost.

The preferred ARC plan would cost less

The improved performance that the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative would deliver would also bring a saving of $3 billion in cost, compared to the NJT plan.

Future costs for NJT unknown

NJT continues to maintain that the cost of the entire project would be $8.7 billion in “year of expenditure” dollars. If the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issues a Full-Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA), the agency would commit a $3 billion grant from New Starts Program funds toward the project, but the money would have to be returned if the project is not completed. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has pledged another $3 billion. At NJT’s current stated cost level, that leaves $2.7 billion that New Jersey must pay. Since the federal contribution would be capped, any cost overruns would be solely New Jersey’s responsibility. The FTA has criticized New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority for delays and cost overruns on the Second Avenue Subway project and the East Side Access project for the LIRR, a deep-cavern terminal under Grand Central Terminal, similar to the one that NJT proposes.

Rail advocate Joseph M. Clift, former Director of Planning for the LIRR, likened the situation to an individual approaching his or her parents for assistance in buying a home. “If the parents are willing to give $30,000 toward the cost of a $90,000 home, the parents will want to be certain that the $60,000 balance can be raised. If the cost rises to $100,000, the parents will need to see that the extra $10,000 can be raised before agreeing to provide the $30,000 gift. The FTA has good cause, as the party responsible for monitoring the use of New Start Program grants, to be absolutely certain to demonstrate its ability to pay any increased cost of ARC, without resorting to taking money from other uses. Absent that proof, the FTA would be unable to approve the grant.”

NJT’s funding plan to raise $2.7 billion includes $1.25 billion of revenue from tolls on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike. Another $1.3 billion would come from Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds under the Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality Program (CMAQ) and the last $150 million would come from “stimulus” grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Except for the stimulus grants, this funding is questionable, due to other calls on those funds or restrictions on use of highway funds for non-highway projects. The New Jersey statute that governs toll revenue from highways allows such funds to be used for non-highway projects only on an “interim” basis, and only for “self-sustaining” projects. While the meaning of the latter term could become the subject of litigation, it is clear that any highway revenue used to fund the rail project could only be used as a loan and would have to be repaid.

The price keeps increasing, as NJT managers announce other projects that would be needed for ARC to function. It was revealed at a September 20th legislative hearing in Trenton that NJT’s portion of the Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement Project (Portal), a companion project that is necessary to implement the proposed operating plan for the ARC railroad, is $750 million, and nobody knows how the Garden State could raise that money, on top of its obligation toward the ARC Project itself. It appears that Amtrak would be responsible for the other $950 million of the $1.7 billion project cost of Portal. For the ARC Project to work, it must be proven that the entire cost of Portal can be funded as well.

At the same hearing, James Weinstein, Executive Director of New Jersey Transit, also said that a flyover must be built at Hunter Interlocking, a point south of Newark where Raritan Valley Line (RVL) trains come onto Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) line to enter Newark Penn Station. Without this flyover, the NEC would become unduly congested under the proposed ARC operations plan. Advocates have estimated the cost of the flyover at $300 million, so the companion projects that are part of the overall mega-project will cost New Jersey at least another billion dollars, plus nearly another billion which Amtrak must demonstrate that it can pay. In effect, this requires that $10.7 billion be available to complete the project. Nobody in New Jersey or at Amtrak has demonstrated that these costs can be paid.

State holds hearing

The Assembly Transportation Committee held a hearing concerning the issue on Monday, September 20th. Legislators from both sides of the aisle called for a funding measure that would allow the state to raise the money to build the entire proposed project, including a deep-cavern terminal. Advocates representing the Lackawanna Coalition and allied organizations pushed for the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, which they believe to be an affordable project that would deliver the benefits that riders want, at cost savings in excess of $3 billion.

State political leaders expressed concern about paying for cost overruns on the project, and asked how the federal government could be convinced to pay for such overruns. Executive Director Weinstein stated clearly that any overruns would be New Jersey’s responsibility, since the federal government would not commit more than $3 billion to the project.

Proponents of the current project, including the deep-cavern terminal, called for it to move forward, despite uncertainty about New Jersey’s ability to pay for its share of the cost.

Speaking for the Regional Rail Working Group, a consortium of rider advocacy organizations, Clift stated that the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative could deliver the savings that would make the project affordable. He told the Committee: “With Moynihan/Penn Station First, the $10.7B cost of all projects required for ARC to function is reduced to a price New Jersey can demonstrate it can afford with available resources – Moynihan/Penn Station First gets you there with its $3B in net savings, dropping the price tag to $7.7B, the ARC funding level available without fungible FHWA funds.” Clift also noted that it has been reported any money from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would be a loan that would have to be paid back from future resources of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). At the start of the next fiscal year on July 1st, the TTF will have no money for anything except debt service, which would render it essentially unable to pay for any new projects.

Additional tunnel needed for through travel to East Side

Philip G. Craig, speaking for the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) also called for a new tunnel to Manhattan as part of a project that would allow expansion to the East Side. Craig, a 50-year veteran of the transit industry, claimed that the final cost of the project, including all necessary components that were not considered part of the ARC Project itself, would reach $12 billion. Besides Portal and a flyover at Hunter Interlocking, Craig included the cost of locomotives and railcars in his estimate, along with money that would be required to upgrade the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Line for the proposed operating schedule; two items that went beyond Clift’s statement of the cost of projects required for ARC to function. Craig said it was time to “Right Size the Rail Tunnel” to bring it into a Moynihan/Penn Station facility rather than the proposed deep cavern.

Craig also questioned the legality of NJT’s plan to use $1.25 billion in toll revenue from the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike toward New Jersey’s contribution, which Clift included in his estimate of available of available resources for ARC. The applicable statute allows toll revenue to be used for “interim” financing of “self-sustaining” non-highway projects, but Craig stated that he did not believe that the proposed project could meet that standard. “The ARC Project will never be self-sustaining: Any revenue advanced to it on an ‘interim’ basis to finance or support its costs will never be repaid to the Turnpike Authority because of the ARC Project’s non-sustaining nature.”

James T. Raleigh, Chair of the Political Committee of the Lackawanna Coalition, the final speaker at the hearing, pointed out that the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative would deliver more construction jobs in New Jersey because the lower cost of the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative would free up money for other New Jersey projects. Much of the work for NJT’s deep cavern proposal would be done under New York City by New York workers. Raleigh also said that eventual expansion to the East Side of Manhattan would benefit New Jersey residents who work in the area, since they would have an easier commute to their offices.

Additional billion needed from NJT for NEC

NJT’s experience this past summer with problems on the NEC support Craig’s contention that a billion dollars of investment in that line is needed. At the September 20th hearing, Weinstein claimed that the 1934-vintage catenary design used on the line was responsible for many of the problems.

The agency had come under fire this summer for frequent delays and train cancellations, especially on the NEC. Although Weinstein blamed old infrastructure on Amtrak’s NEC for the delays, Daniel J. O’Connell, of the United Transportation Union, which represents crew members on NJT Rail, stated that decades of underinvestment by New Jersey Transit were responsible for the poor condition of the NEC.

Some organizations that have consistently supported the project with the deep-cavern terminal did not make statements at the Assembly hearing, including the Regional Plan Association and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC). However, TSTC left a written statement and sent e-mail messages to its members and supporters, urging them to support the project with the deep-cavern terminal included.

Why stop now?

Meanwhile, speculation continues about why Gov. Christie called for a moratorium at this time. A report by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) was posted on the DOT web site the day before the Assembly hearing. The report criticized NJT’s management and explained the FTA’s concern that more money should be set aside to cover project risks and contingencies. That would add to the overall cost of the project, taking it above the $8.7 billion cost claimed by NJT. The DOT Inspector General had previously criticized New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority for delays and cost overruns on the Second Avenue Subway under Manhattan and the East Side Access Project, which is designed to bring the Long Island Rail Road into a deep-cavern terminal near Grand Central Terminal; a project similar in size and scope to the proposed deep-cavern terminal for NJT. This led to the FTA and the MTA agreeing to increase the cost and delay the completion dates of the two projects.

During the hearing, NJT chief Weinstein appeared to depart from his steadfast support for the project, including the deep-cavern terminal. He said: “If it costs ten dollars and you only have seven, whether it’s a good time to buy it or not, if you don’t have the money to pay for it, you shouldn’t do it.” Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, asked Winstein: “If the money for that ten-dollar project only comes your way once in a lifetime, isn’t it the obligation of the State to find a way to do it?” Weinstein replied after some hesitation: “It’s an obligation of the State to find a way to come up with the other three dollars.” Everyone knew that they were not talking about mere dollars, but about billions. Rail advocates maintain that the solution is not finding more money, but saving money by building the Moyniahn/Penn Station First alternative, which is $3 billion less expensive than the proposed deep-cavern terminal.

Meanwhile, Newark Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine continues to opine against the deep-cavern terminal. On Thursday, September 23d, Mulshine said: “Imagine a hole dug 175 feet deep along a busy Manhattan street. Then imagine New Jersey’s political leaders standing on the edge of that hole throwing an indeterminate amount of money down that hole for an indeterminate number of years.” Mulshine also questioned the utility of the proposed terminal because of its location: “First to go was the link to Grand Central. Next to be nixed was the link to Penn.” He continued: “ARC had nowhere to go. And that’s where it’s going. The current plan calls for NJ Transit to build a multibillion-dollar terminal so deep underground that it will not connect to anything but an endless chain of escalators.” Mulshine ended his column by saying that advocates for the ARC Project should go back to the drawing board: “Maybe this time, they can come up with a plan for Access to the Region’s Core that actually provides access to the region’s core.”

The same issue of the Star-Ledger also ran a rebuttal by Martin E. Robins, who was the original ARC Project Director from 1994 to 1998, when connections to the existing Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal were still under consideration. Robins supports the current proposal, including the deep-cavern terminal favored by NJT. He claimed that the project would bring economic benefits, especially construction jobs, although advocates claim that the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative would also provide these benefits. Robins also offered a suggestion for funding: “New Jersey could pledge, on a contingent basis that during the project’s out years, additional state allocations of federal highway funds or a slice of an unspecified Turnpike Authority toll increase would be used to bridge any funding gap.”

Gov. Christie has made it clear that he does not intend to raise user fees on gasoline, or start projects where funding is not available. He increased rail fares on NJT at least 25% and up to 64%, but he steadfastly refuses to require motorists and truckers to pay any increased cost for using highways in the Garden State. Robins’ proposal would also face legal hurdles, as Craig pointed out in his statement to the Assembly Transportation Committee. In the climate that has suddenly materialized in Trenton, it does not appear that Robins’ proposal or similar ones made by other supporters of the deep-cavern will be adopted.

With the cost of Portal, the flyover at Hunter, and NEC infrastructure costs, it is clear that the $8.7 billion cost still quoted by NJT is no longer valid. Both Clift and Craig mentioned numbers that were higher by billions of dollars. The project’s proponents have put out a call for support, while most rider advocates have cautioned that the numbers do not add up.

Every NJT and Amtrak train that goes into the existing Penn Station uses Amtrak’s NEC Line. Because it owns the line, Amtrak is a major, yet almost silent player in the unfolding ARC drama, whether Amtrak likes it or not. What are the benefits and drawbacks to Amtrak of the alternatives under consideration? The answer to that question will be the subject of the next article in this series.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackaawanna Coalition, which favors new tunnels into an enhanced Moynihan/Penn Station facility and opposes the construction of a deep-cavern terminal.

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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

A Solution To The ARC Fiasco

By James P. RePass
Publisher, Destinaton:Frededom

Bubbling along beneath most reporters’, not to mention the general public’s, radar screen has been the recent unraveling of the $8.7 Billion+ “Access the Region’s Core” or ARC Project to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River; this week New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered an immediate halt to construction when questions were raised by the Federal Government about the project’s actual costs and funding sources.

Originally, this vital tunnel project was proposed to connect under the Hudson River to Pennsylvania Station (along its South side) and then continue along under Manhattan to Grand Central, thereby permitting to-and-through New York travel up the East Coast to New England, and down the Atlantic seaboard to Washington, not only improving Amtrak intercity rail capacity (required by the growing need for rail service in the region) but greatly expanding the potential for commuter rail service by allowing a one-seat rides between, say, Stamford and Trenton, Newark and New Rochelle, and so on.

Unfortunately a few years ago New Jersey Transit made the decision to cut out the Penn Station connection and route the new tunnels instead to a set of deep-cavern dead-end rail stubs under 34th Street, thereby destroying at one stroke any real regional benefits for all but New Jersey commuters, and shutting out Amtrak altogether – whose existing tunnels are now 100 years old, and in need of major repair.

Why was this done? Our colleague David Peter Alan is giving Destination:Freedom’s readers a very thorough and detailed history of the ARC project (see last issue, this one, and future issues) so there is no need here to go into any great detail as to the “why?”, but to oversimplify, the project was changed because the key agencies involved --- Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Metro North, the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York, the New York Water Department (whose infrastructure is vital as well) and others --- had trouble working together effectively, for a lot of reasons. And now, recently, Amtrak is saying it must build its own tunnels since it was cut out of the ARC.

Now the project stands in danger of complete collapse, and there is real concern that the basic infrastructure so badly needed, two new Hudson River rail tunnels, will not be built at all.

The National Corridors Initiative believes that there is a solution that can solve both the logistical and financial issues, and avoid the catastrophe that will befall the transportation system of this most densely populated region in America, if those tunnels are not built:

President Obama, may we have your attention?

Let’s look at the human assets we’ve got at hand:

You have as your Secretary of Transportation one of the most capable, and visible, and dynamic transportation secretaries in U.S. History, Ray LaHood. You also have two very experienced and talented people, Peter Rogoff, as head of the Federal Transit Administration (Commuter Rail), and Joe Szabo, as Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (Amtrak and Intercity Rail), working under Secretary LaHood.

In New Jersey, we have a fiscally conservative governor Chris Christie, with a real budget mess on his hands, and in New York City we have an independent, Michael Bloomberg, who has shown he can cut the mustard in both the business world and at City Hall in New York.

Let’s put these assets together.

  1. We propose, first and foremost, that the original alignment through Penn and Grand Central be restored; very little actual digging has been done on the new Hudson River tunnels, and the slope and angle of those tunnels can at this point accommodate the restored Penn Station alignment, and our expert’s analyses shows that that alignment will actually reduce the cost of the project, by obviating the need for the 34th street dead-end terminal tracks;

  2. That at President Obama’s direction Secretary LaHood create an FRA-FTA Joint Task Force on Infrastructure --- not necessarily a permanent new bureaucracy --- headed by himself, with Administrators Rogoff and Szabo as Task Force chairs reporting to the Secretary, and run by an executive selected by them from among the ranks of the very best of the nation’s public works administrators or private sector CEOs, and that representatives from NJT, Amtrak, New York City, and Metro North, Long Island Railroad, the MTA, and the Port Authority be named by those organizations to represent them on the Task Force and work with that CEO to get the project built;

  3. That at least half of the $2.5 billion pledged by New Jersey come instead from Federal intercity rail funds, and that project costs above that be capped with a Federal pledge that is in turn underwritten by revenues from a Trans Hudson Ticket Tax collected on every ticket sold on any rail line using the tunnels, and by any freight lines that may use them as well

  4. Keep the tunnel construction team at work. We are in the worst recession since the 1930’s, “officially” over or not, and we don’t need any more unemployment.

  5. Last, but of paramount importance: it is time to create a Joint Powers Operating Authority to manage the operation of the New York City region’s rail system. The present shared power arrangement at Penn Station does not go far enough, and the decades of rivalry between NJT and Amtrak over Northeast Corridor track and station usage is one of the main reasons why the original Penn Station alignment was dropped.

There is our modest proposal, Mr. President. In the words of that great philosopher, The Cable Guy, “Let’s git ‘er done!”

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