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 29, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 41

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
Landmark Legislation To Improve Nation’s Rail System Passed By House
  Commuter Lines…
Connecticut Governor Rell Adds Trains To Danbury And Main Lines
  Financial Lines…
Transportation Funds Running Dry
Amtrak Retains $1.3 Billion Subsidy Under Plan Before Senate
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
High Energy And Massive Turnout At InnoTrans 2008
  Commentary…
New Jersey Transit’s Proposed “T.H.E. Tunnel” Project
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

Landmark Legislation To Improve Nation’s Rail System Passed By House

By DF Staff from press releases out of the office of Senator Lautenberg and the
National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP)
and from the Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON, DC, SEPTEMBER 25 – Last week, the House passed an amended version of The Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007, which now, as the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008 (H.R. 2095), includes an Amtrak reauthorization component.

The House passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (H.R. 6003) in June. This legislation would reauthorize Amtrak for five years (see details below) and provide more than $500 million annually for a state intercity passenger-rail grant program. The bill also would enable private operators to launch passenger-rail service pilot programs on freight-owned tracks in Amtrak's worst-performing corridors, and require the federal government to work with states and railroads to plan rail infrastructure projects.

In addition, H.R. 6003 calls for developing high-speed rail service between Washington, D.C., and New York City that would complete the trip in under two hours. The bill would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to solicit proposals for engineering, finance and development plans for the system; create a commission comprising state, local, federal, rail and rail labor stakeholders to evaluate the proposals; and report recommendations to Congress.

Now, the rail investment legislation is grouped in with the rail safety bill, which proposes to limit hours of service, reduce workers' limbo time, tighten training standards, require conductor certification, and mandate installation of positive train control on lines used for passenger trains and to move hazardous materials no later than 2015.

Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.) led the effort to get the rail package passed in the House, and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (N.J.) has led the effort in the Senate.

“Today is a transformative and historic moment in our Nation’s transportation system, because we passed legislation improving intercity passenger rail service and enhancing a transportation solution that is affordable, accessible, and environmentally sustainable.  After a decade of starvation diets by the Bush administration and inaction of the Republican-controlled Congress, we stand together to rebuild Amtrak and provide the necessary resources to construct a network of high-speed rail corridors across America,” said Oberstar.  “Additionally, this legislation greatly increases safety standards for the rail industry, which is good news for rail workers and the general public.”

“This is a real step forward for anyone who’s tired of sitting in traffic, paying high prices at the pump and waiting in long lines at airports,” said Lautenberg, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation.  “As Amtrak ridership continues to hit record levels, our bill gives passenger rail the resources it needs to meet the Nation’s increased demands.  Our rail safety bill modernizes safety laws and decreases risk with smarter regulation and modern technology.  Now that the House has passed this package, it’s time for the Senate to act so we can get this bill to the President and signed into law.”

“My Subcommittee has held numerous hearings on railroad safety, as well as intercity passenger rail service.  Amtrak and intercity passenger rail are more popular and necessary than ever because of increasing highway and airport congestion and rising gas prices,” said Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), the Chairwoman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee.  “This legislation will help reduce accidents, improve rail safety, and enhance the work environment for employees, which will allow the rail industry to safely handle passenger and freight rail growth.”

The rail legislation includes:

1. Amtrak reauthorization bill which was developed from similar bills passed by the Senate last year (70-22) and passed by the House earlier this year (311-94):

* Authorizes $13.06 billion over five years for passenger rail— more than $2.6 billion annually for Amtrak, intercity passenger rail, and high speed rail programs, which is almost double what the U.S. is currently spending;

2. Railroad safety improvement bill which was developed from similar bills passed unanimously by the Senate and by the House (377-38):

3. Clean Railroads Act of 2008:

4. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) reauthorization bill:

The House passed the bipartisan package unanimously.  The bill now moves to the Senate, and after passage, it will go to the President to be signed into law.

Hold-up: Political Maneuvering Delays Bill

Republican Senator Tom Coburn, a fiscal hawk from Oklahoma, has blocked the bill by preventing an up-or-down vote in the Senate without cloture.

In a phone interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Coburn said that the continuing credit crisis and the potential for a $700 billion federal rescue plan added to specific concerns he has over additional spending in the rail package, which has an estimated cost of about $14 billion over five years. He said the bill has “many great reforms” but it lacks oversight over Amtrak spending, and he is opposed to the ten-year $1.5 billion authorization for improvements to Washington’s rail transit system.

Senators who support the bill are confident they have the sixty votes needed to override cloture, so they are trying to persuade Coburn to drop his hold. Mary Kerr, a spokeswoman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said she is still confident that supporters of the bill can find a way around Mr. Coburn's objections and clear the Senate.

“We think there is enough momentum in the Senate to get this done, and in our view, it would be absurd to hold up a good safety bill in light of the recent tragedy in California,” Ms. Kerr said in an email.

A National Transportation Safety Board official said the California train crash could have been prevented if the commuter train was equipped with a technology known as “positive train control,” or PTC, which automatically stops trains if they proceed through a stop signal. The bill being debated in Congress would mandate PTC systems for trains by 2015.

The Senate is likely to reconvene on Wednesday, October 1, after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and senators expect the cloture matter could be resolved soon after. They also are anticipating that President Bush will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Connecticut Governor Rell Adds Trains
To Danbury And Main Lines

From The Governor’s Office On The Internet

HARTFORD, CT, SEPT 22 ---- What happened in Connecticut this summer when ridership on the Metro North commuter service increased by more than 5 percent, adding 1.2 million more customer trips?

Governor Rell added new train service on the Danbury and Waterbury branch lines and on the main line of Metro-North in the Stamford area.

Two new midday trains were added on weekdays on the Danbury line and two new midday trains on weekends on the Waterbury line.

The changes take effect on Sunday, Oct. 5.

In addition, the governor’s office reported that trains on the New Haven Line will be extended to eliminate a 47-minute gap in service between Stamford and New Haven during the critical evening rush hour and improve connections between New York City, Greenwich and Stamford.

“These schedule improvements will help Connecticut residents hang on to more of their hard-earned money,” Gov. Rell said. “With gasoline prices in the stratosphere and an expensive winter heating season on the way, consumers are eager to find a way to economize on both the workday commute and travel throughout the region. An additional 1.2 million more customers in July and August this year made it clear --- the need for expanded ---even smarter----service is real.”

“Traveling by train is a win-win-win for customers, the environment and our efforts to reduce highway congestion,” the governor said. “These improvements reflect our continuing emphasis on making Metro-North — already one of the busiest rail lines in the nation — even more customer friendly. Working together, our Department of Transportation and Metro-North are able to add this new service at a relatively low cost to the state, which is also important in these difficult financial times.”

The expanded service on both the Waterbury and Danbury branch lines will mean schedule adjustments on both lines. Customers should consult the new time schedule, which was available on Monday, September 22.

“The Department Of Transportation is committed to providing enhanced service on all levels,” said Commissioner Joseph F. Marie. “Connecticut’s intrastate ridership increased more than 16% from last August. Given this kind of demand, we are committed to providing flexible, expanded schedules and additional rail service.”

Metro-North will also adjust late-evening train service to accommodate capital improvement projects in New York and Connecticut. The changes will create an additional late-evening, westbound train from Grand Central to Connecticut and provide a later departure for the last train from New Haven to Grand Central — also something customers have been requesting.

To check out all the changes, see the new timetables available at train stations, visit the Metro-North Web site or call (800) METRO-INFO.

Schedules on Shore Line East will also see minor time changes on both weekday and weekend service, staring Oct. 5. The changes will make connecting service with the New Haven Line more efficient. Customers should consult the new timetable via shorelineeast.com or call (800) ALL-RIDE.


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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...

Transportation Funds Running Dry

Summarized from an article by Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

SEPTEMBER 24 -- The news is out that the Highway Trust Fund is running dry. The only surprise to the transportation community is that it is happening so soon, but according to conservative advocate Paul Weyrich, this could be a blessing in disguise.

Mr Weyrich has been a long time advocate for this country to have a world class rail system, something he says conservatives should get behind: depending on the highway system as our single mode of travel in most of the country is not only a huge waste of tax dollars, it is highly inefficient. Gridlock is paralyzing our cities and our economy, and expanding the highways will not solve the problem.

The federal gas tax, 18.4 cents on every gallon, has been the source of money for the Trust Fund since it was established in the 1950’s when Eisenhower signed the legislation that built our interstate highway system. Until gas prices rose to almost $4 a gallon, the Trust Fund kept increasing. That has all changed with Americans driving less.

Weyrich offers an array of choices for funding transit, most of which will fall on the backs of the states, since, as he says, “It is highly unlikely that Congress will vote to increase the federal fuel tax .....in this election year, but if Congress does increase the tax rate, President George W. Bush is all but certain to veto the increase.”

In Pennsylvanis, he noted, “Gov Edward G. Rendell and the Republican-controlled Legislature achieved a breakthrough by agreeing to permanent funding of the two largest transit systems in the state, PAT in Pittsburgh and SEPTA in Philadelphia.”

Weyrich served on the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, some of whose recommendations were directed to Pennsylvania:

Increase the state fuel tax

Initiate a ticket charge for every trip taken, not at the city level, but for services like the Keystone run from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and SEPTA on routes such as the line to Trenton, New Jersey and the one to Wilmington, Delaware.

Bring back tolls

“Our most controversial recommendation,” he continues, “was to implore Congress to remove the barriers to pricing and trading.

“There are roads that currently do not have tolls which could support tolls. In fact, the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation should join with other state delegations to get Congress to permit tolling on some interstate highways.

“In addition, some experiments are taking place that have initiated congestion-pricing. That ought to be examined carefully. If it cost more to drive on a certain road in peak hours, motorists would need to choose between driving at the busiest periods and waiting to drive in off-peak hours. Those who elect to travel at peak times could be charged for the privilege.”

Public Private Partnerships

The Commission also recommended more extensive use of Public-Private Investments (PPI), which have been used in Europe successfully for rail. Some states in the US have already leased sections of their highways and bridges to private investors, who get to keep the revenues they receive from tolls and congestion pricing.

Weyrich believes that Public-Private Investments could also be used here for rail facilities with great success, but the Commission said it could not support Public-Private partnerships if the investors were from abroad.

For the complete article, go to www.Newsmax.com


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Amtrak Retains $1.3 Billion Subsidy
Under Plan Before Senate

From the Bloomberg report on the Internet by John Hughes

SEPTEMBER 26 – The 2008 fiscal year ends September 30, and since Congress and the President have failed to agree on fiscal 2009 spending, there has to be a plan to finance the federal government for the next few months!

The Senate will vote very soon on this plan which would give Amtrak an annual subsidy of $1.3 billion through March 6, 2009. The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the bill, which funds all federal transportation programs at fiscal 2008 levels until a new Congress and president agree on 2009 amounts. The U.S. House approved the legislation Sept. 24.

Other subsidies under this plan:

$110 million annual subsidy for U.S. regional airlines such as Great Lakes Aviation Ltd., which serve communities with markets not large enough for regular air service.

$41.2 billion for highways

$3.5 billion for airport construction

In February, Bush proposed cuts in the programs, including 38 percent for Amtrak, 55 percent for rural air service, 4 percent for highways and 21 percent for airport grants.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)98.34100.71
Canadian National (CNI)51.5452.90
Canadian Pacific (CP)56.4357.37
CSX (CSX)56.3959.37
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)38.9745.28
Kansas City Southern (KSU)47.5751.17
Norfolk Southern (NSC)69.9370.36
Providence & Worcester (PWX)17.2516.05
Union Pacific (UNP)73.2776.73


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

High Energy And Massive Turnout
At InnoTrans 2008

Record attendance and innovative transit technologies at the world’s largest rail transit convention in Berlin

 

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

BELRIN – Higher than expected attendance, numerous rolling stock displays and a full spectrum of rail industry exhibitors marked the return of InnoTrans to Germany’s capitol city of Berlin. The convention takes place every two years in Berlin’s massive convention center complex, Berlin Messe, with attendance growing steadily at an approximate 20% rate or more at each event compared to the previous InnoTrans event. The convention also continued its trend of an increasing share of international attendees and exhibitors from all over the globe. Although German visitors and exhibitors this year were again in the clear majority at InnoTrans, their share of the total participation in InnoTrans appears to be 55% or less, down from 80% ten years ago.

NCI’s President and CEO; James RePass made his first visit to InnoTrans during the first two days of the four day event, along with NCI correspondent David Beale, for whom the two-day visit to InnoTrans was his third since 2004. This week we will provide our readers a quick summary of this event with details in later D:F editions.


All Photos By David Beale, NCI

NCI’s Jim RePass (on the right) meets with Bombardier representatives at InnoTrans.

Exhibitors

As in previous years InnoTrans attracted hundreds of companies, state railroads, commercial railroads, mass transit agencies, component suppliers, rolling stock leasing firms, train builders, construction firms, and consultants. The span of the displays ranged from brand new trains sets ready for delivery to LEDs for indicator lights, to massive diesel motors, to roof-mounted pantographs to steel clips used for securing rails to concrete ties and nearly everything in between. This year nearly all of the 26 separate convention halls on the convention center grounds were filled with InnoTrans exhibitors and conferences. In 2006 InnoTrans was located almost entirely in the main buildings on the south and west side of the complex, leaving about eight halls on the north and east side of the convention center unoccupied.

Siemens and Russian Railways RZD unveiled the Velaro for Russia at a major press event in InnoTrans. Velaro trains will operate from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The train set is essentially a modified version of Germany’s ICE-3 with 1520 mm track gage (verses 1435 mm standard gage), cab controls, signaling and train protection adopted to RZD’s standards and modifications to the climate control and traction cooling systems for Russia’s brutally cold winter temperatures.

The powerhouses of the European rolling stock manufacturing sector, Bombardier, Siemens, Alstom, CAF, Stadler and Talgo, all had large pavilions, at InnoTrans. In many cases, they had multiple pavilions. In a change from the previous two InnoTrans events, GE was very prominent at this year’s InnoTrans convention with multiple pavilions and numerous advertising displays around the complex. It is clear from statements some of GE’s personnel made to us and with the massively increased presence of their exhibitions at InnoTrans 2008, that GE is eager to reverse its current ‘also-ran’ position in the European and Asian railroad markets.

Spain’s Prince Filipie and his wife greet the press after touring Talgo’s latest overnight train set at InnoTrans.

Displays and Introductions

As in previous years several rolling stock manufactures showed their latest rail vehicles on static display, in some cases for the first time in public. RZD (Russian Railways) and Siemens unveiled the high-speed Velaro train set for Russia, Bombardier showed its Talent 2 EMU for commuter passenger rail and Alstom brought its latest high speed train for France, the all new AGV, which is also being actively marketed to several other countries, including Germany. Voith Turbo, a German locomotive manufacturer, and Deutsche Bahn announced that the German railroad will purchase 130 new diesel locomotives for road switching and line-haul work on shorter freight trains. Prince Felipe of Spain toured Talgo’s new Hoteltren on display at InnoTrans, drawing a huge number of members of the press and papparazzi in his wake.

Alstom’s AGV, the successor of the popular and reliable TGV high speed train series from France. The AGV is actually an EMU (eletric multiple unit) train set without dedicated power cars or locomotives, unlike TGV trains sets. French rail operator SNCF is planning to operate the AGV at speeds up to 360 km/h (224 mph) in revenue service.

The static display area was nearly fully occupied with various examples of rolling stock available from a variety of OEMs. A common theme with many of the newer passenger cars, locomotives, mass transit cars and light rail trams was new “eco-friendly” features and capabilities. In some cases an OEM applied this characteristic simply because the vehicle or product he was displaying consumed slightly less energy than the same product or vehicle of 20 or 25 years ago. But in other examples the “eco-friendly” label meant far more, with application of materials and coatings that did not rely on hazardous materials, reduced vehicle weight and wind resistance, state of the art emissions controls for diesel powered equipment and high technology propulsion controls and motors with energy efficiency above 90%.

View of AGC’s interior in coach class. The interior design and layout is similar to some existing versions of the TGV series.

Eco does not automatically mean spartan. Siemens’ Rail Jet train built for Austria’s ÖBB state railway, Talgo’s latest overnight train, Siemen’s Velaro for Russian Railways and the all new AGV from Alstom, and even the AGC dual mode electric / diesel regional train set from Bombardier have luxurious interiors with airliner style premium / business class seats in their first class areas as well as comfortable seats with good leg room in coach. One will simply not find this kind of room in coach class of your typical low cost airline or even legacy airline carrier or intercity bus.

An American in Europe – EletroMotive appeared at InnoTrans again with its “Class 66” diesel locomotive on display. The Canadian assembled locomotive is constructed from many major parts and components manufactured in the USA for EMD’s American market locomotives. Although the model has enjoyed major success in the U.K. and in numerous countries around continental Europe, especially with third-party rail freight haulers, EMD plans a major revision to the model which will dramatically change its outward appearance as well as improve fuel consumption, sound and exhaust emissions, driver comfort and maintainability.

Impressions

The record crowds, the impressive product displays, the press conferences and media buzz, high ranking executives, government officials, luxurious pavilions and volumes of technical information – this show is now entering territory occupied by the Paris and Farnborough Air Shows, the Detroit, Frankfurt and Tokyo Auto Shows, and the CeBIT electronics and computer convention here in Hannover. Although I do not really support nor oppose what Bombardier is doing in this field, as they are simply a large corporation which is trying to make a profitable long term business in the rail transit sector, but their slogan at this year’s InnoTrans convention sums up the headlines coming from rail transit in the past two years quite well: “The Climate Is Right For Trains.” Indeed. Rail transit represents the next degree of freedom in passenger and freight transportation, and InnoTrans was an excellent forum to see what is coming down the tracks in the near future. As North America looks to rail to move passengers away from energy intensive and heavily subsidized highway and air transportation while Europe and central Asia struggle to move an explosion of freight traffic off their overloaded highways on to the rails, the climate for rail transit has never been better.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...

New Jersey Transit’s Proposed “T.H.E. Tunnel” Project:

Why We Say “We Have A Better Plan”

First of a series
By: David Peter Alan

It is one of the most talked-about and grandiose projects in railroading today. In fact, it is one of the most grandiose rail projects in history. It’s New Jersey Transit’s “T.H.E. Tunnel” or “ARC” Project. Most of the political, business and labor establishment can’t want for it to be built. They are pitted against virtually every advocate who supports better transit for New Jersey’s rail riders. The battle lines are clearly drawn, and they stretch from Washington to Albany, with stopovers in Trenton and New York City.

It was not always so. When NJT first proposed the Access to the Region’s Core or “ARC” project in 1995, rail advocates in the Garden State and in New York City were delighted. NJT had proposed construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River to increase peak-hour capacity. There were three alternatives proposed at the time for the Manhattan side. Alternative “P” called for a new stub-end terminal below the existing Penn Station, with eight tracks (four over four) adding to the existing station’s capacity but going no further. Alternative “S” added a single non-revenue track under 31st Street, heading east and eventually connecting into Sunnyside Yards, a major storage yard in Queens used by Amtrak and NJT. Neither of those alternatives would have allowed riders to go to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan.

As far as all of the representatives of the riding community were concerned, “Alternative G” was the only choice worthy of consideration. That plan called for a track connection between the existing Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, thus delivering riders to the East Side of Midtown without loss of existing access to the West Side. We support the idea of trains being operated on a regional basis through New York City. Running between New Haven and Trenton, with stops at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, would be an example. Alternative G was the only proposal on the “ARC” menu that actually lived up to the name.

Then everything changed. NJT called a special meeting of its Board of Directors in June, 2003 to announce that Alternative G was no longer under consideration. It appeared that then-Governor George Pataki of New York did not wish to have NJT trains proceed to the East Side. The project eventually morphed into a stub-end terminal, 175 feet (nearly 20 stories) below 34th Street with no connections to Penn Station, except through the stairways that lead to the subway system.

Over the past five years, the project has changed several times, and each change constituted a downgrade. The latest is that there is no longer any plan for tail tracks on the three “upper level” tracks (only 135 feet, or about 15 stories, below ground). That means NJT no longer has any plan to provide access to the East Side, even at some indefinite time in the distant future. In effect, East Side Access, which New York State plans to spend billions of dollars to provide for the Long Island Rail Road, will be precluded for New Jersey riders.

Five years ago, we were shocked to learn that there were no more plans to bring our trains to the East Side. We expressed our shock and dismay in impromptu statements, since we were never notified in advance about the proposed downgrade to the project.

Over the years, our opposition because stronger as we learned that the proposed dead-end terminal would be located even deeper underground, that future access to the East Side would be effectively precluded, and that the trains on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Lines would be evicted from the existing Penn Station and forced into the “deep cavern” terminal instead.

When true Access to the Region’s Core, meaning both the East and West Sides of Midtown Manhattan, was eliminated from the project, NJT changed the name to the “T.H.E. Tunnel” or “Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel” for public consumption. Transit management still uses the name “ARC” for official purposes, since the original proposal to the Federal Transit Administration used that name. To us, this name change is an admission that the proposed project would no longer live up to its original and worthy goal.

The representatives of the riding public, both nationally and locally, have joined in an alliance to fight the current proposal and return to the original goal of Access to the Region’s Core. We want the new proposed tunnel to connect to the existing Penn Station, so riders on NJT will continue to have convenient connections to Amtrak, the LIRR and other NJT rail lines. We see no need to spend billions of extra dollars for a dead-end, deep cavern terminal that is inconvenient for riders and would also constitute a safety and security hazard. We also want East Side access, as originally proposed in alternative G.

We object to the plan as currently devised for several reasons.

First, New Jersey riders would not have access to the East Side. There are more offices within walking distance of Grand Central Terminal than within walking distance of Penn Station. Even with proposed new West Side development, there will still be more offices on the East Side. The LIRR is planning to spend billions of dollars to give its customers access to the East Side, although they are also planning a deep-cavern dead-end terminal far below GCT. We also want East Side access for the LIRR, and we strongly prefer that the railroad connect to the Lower Level of the existing Grand Central Terminal. Long Island riders would keep their current access to Penn Station under the MTA plan, so they could go to either side of town. In Connecticut, Gov. Jody Rell has called for some New Haven LineHaven Line trains on Metro North to be routed to the existing Penn Station on the Hell Gate Bridge Route used by Amtrak for Boston trains. New Jersey riders would not have direct access to the East Side under the current plan, and we strongly object to such inferior treatment for rail riders from the Garden State.

Second, the proposed plan is far too expensive. With everything that NJT proposes to build, the price tag is now close to $10 billion, even with recent announced cutbacks in the scope of the project. This includes the proposed new tunnel, deep-cavern terminal with no eastward extension, and the Portal Bridge replacement project. Portal Bridge spans the Hackensack River, just west of Secaucus Station. NJT plans to replace the current swing bridge with two spans located twice as far above the high-tide water level of the river.

Our plan to revive the 2007 plan, which would connect a new tunnel into the existing Penn Station, would save approximately $2 billion. This cost saving is critical, especially in light of the financial difficulties that New Jersey, New York and other states are facing. NJT has implemented severe cuts in rail service since May, when weekday off-peak service on the Morris & Essex Line was cut nearly in half and week-end service on the M&E to Hoboken was essentially eliminated. Other lines have felt the ax since then, and rumors of even more cuts persist. Bus service has also been reduced, both on NJT and on county-operated routes. Light rail service has also been reduced in Newark. NJT blames high fuel costs for the service cuts. We have analogized NJT’s situation to that of a “spendaholic” who wants a Rolls-Royce in the driveway for its status, while not being able to afford the gas to run it. We strongly object to such reckless spending when transit-dependent riders are forced to sacrifice mobility and people with automobiles are discouraged from discretionary transit use at off-peak hours, when there is plenty of available space on the trains.

Third, we object to NJT’s proposed operating plan. As currently devised, it calls for all lines that do not currently go to Manhattan (Main-Bergen, Pascack Valley and Raritan Valley Lines) to go into the deep-cavern terminal. This move would effectively eliminate the utility of Secaucus Station, which cost $600 million and opened for service less than five years ago. Even worse, all trains on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Lines and some trains on the North Jersey Coast Line would be diverted to the new dead-end terminal far beneath the street. Riders on the M&E and Montclair-Boonton Lines, who now enjoy direct access to the existing Penn Station would be evicted from there and forced into the new terminal. This will result in a severe downgrade of West Side Access for those riders, without gaining access to the East Side.

We also object to the configuration of the proposed new terminal. The plan calls for three tracks on each of two levels. All riders would travel 155 feet below street level to a mezzanine, and then up or down twenty feet to the platforms. NJT has acknowledged that it would take six minutes to reach a platform 150 feet down, so we believe it would take seven minutes for a rider to reach either platform level in the proposed terminal. This amounts to 14 minutes per day, 70 minutes per working week and 3500 minutes (58 hours and 20 minutes) in a working year, just for vertical travel. We note that the “A” and “D” trains on the New York subways can go from 59th to 125th Streets in less time. In addition, we do not see how people, especially peak-hour crowds, could be rescued from such a deep location in the event of a fire or terrorist attack. Therefore, we object to the proposed terminal as overly expensive, unsafe and inconvenient.

The Lackawanna Coalition and the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers on the New Jersey side, the Empire State Passengers Association as well as the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility in New York, and the Regional Rail Working Group (a tri-state organization with members from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) have joined in an alliance to oppose the current proposal and replace it with the earlier plan that would take NJT trains to the existing Penn Station and the existing GCT. At the national level, the National Association of Railroad Passengers has become an active participant in the struggle and the Rail Users Network has also voiced its support for a return to true Access to the Region’s Core.

Amtrak, the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration have expressed concerns about the current NJT plan. We do not believe that money is available to pay for it, anyway. There have been several recent changes which indicate that opposition to the proposed project is growing and NJT’s grandiose plan may never be built. These recent changes will be the subject of the next article in the series.

 

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, a Director of NARP and RUN, and a member of NJ-ARP and the Regional Rail Working Group. The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of any other individual or organization.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2008 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

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