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
 

Contribute To NCI

October 25, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 43

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

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

  News Items…
The Latest Line On The ARC
NJ Gov. Christie Delays Final Judgment On ARC As Feds,
   Jersey Seek Solution To Current Alignment Cost Over-Runs
  HSR…
BC Canada Premier, Washington State Gov. Propose
   Can-Am West Coast HSR Line
  Grants And Projects…
In Unique Cross-Bureau Program HUD, DOT, EPA
   Release $409.5M
Applications Top $19 Billion For $600 Million Available
US Ports Secure $95 Million In TIGER II Funding
  Ridership Lines…
Amtrak Ridership Climbs 15 Percent In East Lansing
Amtrak Ridership In Pacific Northwest Increases
 
  Station Lines…
Ground-Breaking At Moynihan Penn
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Rail Projects Survive Massive UK Government Spending Cuts
ICE-3 Reaches London
  Commentary…
The ARC Tunnel Project: Posturing Intensifies;
   Governor Stands Firm and Rider Advocates
   Continue the Campaign
  Publication Notes …


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

The Latest Line On The ARC

By DF Staff

TRENTON, WASHINGTON --- U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood has confirmed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s assertion of two weeks ago that the projected cost of the ARC (“Access to the Region’s Core”) trans-Hudson rail tunnel project as presently configured is vastly over budget, the Governor announced this weekend.

“According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the newly estimated cost of the ARC project ranges from $9.775 billion to $12.708 billion. In August, federal transportation officials provided New Jersey Transit with cost estimates for the project ranging from $10.88 billion to $13.7 billion. Both the August and the currently revised ranges of estimated costs do not include the $775 million New Jersey expense of building a new bridge needed for the sole purpose of creating a new connection from the Northeast Corridor line to the ARC tunnel,” the Governor’s office said in an official statement released October 22.

“Therefore, based on today’s confirmation from Secretary LaHood, the total project cost ranges from $10.55 billion to $13.475 billion (based on the August federal data, total project cost ranged from $11.665 billion to $14.475 billion),” the Governor’s office said.

Transportation experts view the concession as a first step in the possible revival of the tunnel project along its original, far less costly alignment to Penn Station that was scrapped three years ago in favor of a dead-end deep cavern station terminal under 34th Street, when then-New Jersey Governor John Corzine Administration permitted New Jersey Transit to change the alignment, and shut out Amtrak and all rail capacity growth to New England and Eastern Canada that the Penn Station alignment would have provided, at lower cost.

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), a powerful U.S. Senator and passionate transit advocate for decades, who assembled and championed the New Jersey-only alignment once New Jersey Transit cut off talks with Amtrak, obtained $3 billion in Federal Transit Administration funding for the project, which a number of critics say will now go to other state if the project is cancelled. This danger exists because federal transportation investment dollars are appropriated by Congress according to mode --- transit is in a different committee than intercity rail --- with committee and subcommittee chairmen in both the House and Senate asserting their various claims on the modes their subcommittees over-see, based on seniority, clout, and other factors that often have nothing to do with the merits of the project itself.

The ARC project is a case in point, as the trans-Hudson tunnels would benefit both intercity and commuter rail if aligned to and through Penn Stations as the present 100 year-old tunnels do, but would benefit New Jersey Transit only if the 34th Street dead end alignment is chosen. Because a significant chunk of its funding comes from the FTA, reverting to the initial Penn Station alignment might require allocating that money through the Federal Railroad Administration, which at this late date presents a daunting political and administrative challenge to Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood and Christie both recognize that a new trans-Hudson tunnel is needed, but are struggling to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles to fund it along the less-costly, FRA-centric Penn Station alignment.

“The hurdle remains unchanged. Governor Christie continues to recognize the need and advantages of expanding rail capacity between New Jersey and New York. But as Governor Christie has repeatedly stated, he is not willing to saddle New Jersey taxpayers with a public works project with such a large, indeterminate cost overrun projection with no way to fund it. Critics who seem to be using the moment for political advantage need to answer the question that remains today and was brought into focus by Secretary LaHood: how would they pay for potentially billions of dollars in cost overruns?,” said Christie’s office.


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NJ Gov. Christie Delays Final Judgment
On ARC As Feds, Jersey Seek Solution
To Current Alignment Cost Over-Runs

From Michael Drewniak
Press Secretary To Governor Chris Christie
@New Jersey Governor’s Press Office

Trenton--- “US Transportation Secretary LaHood confirmed today what we knew two weeks ago – the ARC Tunnel project is over budget and puts New Jersey taxpayers at risk of being saddled with billions of dollars in added costs,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s press office stated late this past week.

“According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the newly estimated cost of the ARC project ranges from $9.775 billion to $12.708 billion. In August, federal transportation officials provided New Jersey Transit with cost estimates for the project ranging from $10.88 billion to $13.7 billion. Both the August and the currently revised ranges of estimated costs do not include the $775 million New Jersey expense of building a new bridge needed for the sole purpose of creating a new connection from the Northeast Corridor line to the ARC tunnel,” stated Christie’s office.

Therefore, based on today’s confirmation from Secretary LaHood, the total project cost ranges from $10.55 billion to $13.475 billion (based on the August federal data, total project cost ranged from $11.665 billion to $14.475 billion).

“The hurdle remains unchanged. Governor Christie continues to recognize the need and advantages of expanding rail capacity between New Jersey and New York. But as Governor Christie has repeatedly stated, he is not willing to saddle New Jersey taxpayers with a public works project with such a large, indeterminate cost overrun projection with no way to fund it. Critics who seem to be using the moment for political advantage need to answer the question that remains today and was brought into focus by Secretary LaHood: how would they pay for potentially billions of dollars in cost overruns?”

“On the answer to that question hangs the fate of one of the most important infrastructure projects in American history,” stated NCI Chairman Jim RePass in response to the Governor’s press office comments. “Let us hope that in today’s America we can still rise to the occasion when confronted with great challenges that demand original solutions.”


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HIGH-SPEED RAIL... HSR...  

BC Canada Premier, Washington State Gov.
Propose Can-Am West Coast HSR Line

By DF Staff, The Canadian Press, And From Internet Sources

VANCOUVER BC --- Following the lead set by Quebec Premier Jean Charest, long a champion of Montreal-New York and Montreal-Boston High Speed Rail, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell and Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire this week promised to get moving on a high-speed train that could do for North America’s West Coast what Premier Charest has been pushing for the East, the Canadian Press reported this past week.

“We hope it will go not just from Vancouver to Portland, but on to California,” Gregoire said in a joint news conference in Vancouver Wednesday. Washington State has already won a $600 million grant from the U.S. government to improve up their rail line from Oregon through Seattle, and that also includes money for the track to Vancouver, she said.

But, Canadian Press reported, Campbell said he still has to convince the federal government to help out with the “significant investment” required north of the border.

“We have not had the same kind of aggressive approach in Canada as they have in the United States with regard to high-speed rail,” he said, adding that he’s working to get Asia-Pacific Gateway Minister Stockwell Day on board.

Campbell said he’s behind the proposal to improve the quality of B.C.’s track and rail because it will get cars off the road and save commuters from waiting in long border lineups.

“When I’m talking about high-speed rail, I’m talking about high-speed rail. I’m not talking about a train, I’m talking about a train that gets us from one place to another quickly, so that we don’t have to use our cars,” he said.

The train would travel upwards of 175 km/h and is part of President Barack Obama’s national agenda, according to a Washington state official.

The announcement comes a week after the federal government said $800,000 had been reallocated to cover the costs of keeping a second Amtrak train running between Portland and Vancouver for at least one more year.

That train, which was put in temporarily to facilitate traffic for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, had been scheduled to stop running at the end of the month because of a border security fee dispute. Gregoire told reporters Wednesday that B.C. and Washington are “best friends” who work through difficult problems together.


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GRANTS AND PROJECTS... Grants And Projects...  

Sustainability Grants

 

In Unique Cross-Bureau Program
HUD, DOT, EPA Release $409.5M

From Passenger Transport
Published By The American Public Transportation Association

WASHINGTON, DC---The Obama Administration’s innovative cross-bureau “Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ --- consisting of the US DOT, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) --- this past week announced  the release of grant funds totaling $409.5 million “…to support more livable and sustainable communities across the nation.”

“These investments represent an unprecedented new way of working together. And they set a powerful example for how we can reward true excellence, effective partnerships, and the good stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in making the announcement. “Americans can rebuild their communities—not just in spite of enormous economic challenges, but as the means for overcoming them.”

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said: “These grants will help boost economic development with the goal that all Americans can afford to live in communities with access to employment, schools and transportation options. Communities across the country offered bold, unique proposals to plan and build sustainably based on their own local resources, landscape, culture, and ingenuity. With this partnership, we can lay the foundation for sustainable economic prosperity for generations to come by helping communities that share problems start sharing solutions.”

What is the EPA-HUD-DOT “The Partnership for Sustainable Communities”?

“Our strategy [is] to build economically competitive, environmentally sustainable, opportunity-rich communities that serve as the backbone for our long-term growth and prosperity…We need strategies that encourage smart development linked to quality public transportation, that bring our communities together. That’s why we’ll improve our Partnership for Sustainable Communities by working with HUD, EPA, and the Department of Transportation in making sure that when it comes to development, housing, energy, and transportation policy go hand in hand.”

--President Barack Obama, January 21, 2010

The Obama Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities is a federal interagency partnership between EPA, HUD and DOT with the goal of ensuring that the agencies’ policies, programs, and funding consider affordable housing, transportation, and environmental protection together. Founded on the idea that how and where we build our communities affects our economy, our environment, and our everyday lives, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is aligning investments and policies to support communities that want to give Americans more housing choices, make transportation systems more efficient and reliable, and support vibrant neighborhoods that attract businesses.

Coordinating federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services meets multiple economic, environmental, and community objectives with each dollar spent. For example, investing in public transit can lower household transportation costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, decrease traffic congestion, encourage healthy walking and bicycling, and spur development of new homes and amenities around transit stations. At a time when every dollar the federal government invests in jumpstarting the economy is critical, the President’s plan ensures that all agencies are targeting resources with precision.

For more on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, go to:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/SCP-Fact-Sheet.pdf


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Applications Top $19 Billion For $600 Million Available

75 Transportation Projects In 40 States
Get Funding Under Obama’s TIGER II

By DF Staff And From Internet Sources

WASHINGTON---Seventy five major infrastructure project s in 40 states --- 42 of them capital construction, and 33 in the planning stage ---- will share nearly $600 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s popular TIGER II program for major infrastructure projects ranging from highways and bridges to transit, rail and ports, Secretary Ray LaHood announced this week.

The “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” (TIGER) II program received nearly 1,000 construction grant applications for more than $19 billion from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, the Secretary’s office reported in making the announcement.

The tremendous demand for TIGER II project dollars “follows a similar demand for TIGER I project dollars,” the US DOT reported.  On February 17, 2009, the Department announced 51 grant awards from nearly 1,500 applications for TIGER I grants nationwide. The TIGER I requests were for almost $60 billion worth of projects, 40 times the $1.5 billion available under that program.  TIGER I dollars were made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“These are innovative, 21st century projects that will change the U.S. transportation landscape by strengthening the economy and creating jobs, reducing gridlock and providing safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices,” said Secretary LaHood.  “Many of these projects could not have been funded without this program.”

Roughly 29 percent of TIGER II money goes for road projects, 26 percent for transit, 20 percent for rail projects, 16 percent for ports, four percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects and five percent for planning projects.

An example of projects funded is $47.6 million to the City of Atlanta to construct a new streetcar line connecting many of the most important downtown residential, cultural, educational and historic centers, demonstrating the Department’s commitment to improving quality of life in major metropolitan areas. 

TIGER II also provided $20 million to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to replace the deteriorating Memorial Bridge that connects Portsmouth, NH, with Kittery, ME.

The bridge is at the end of its service life and has a bridge sufficiency rating of six out of 100.  Safety concerns recently required a maximum three-ton weight restriction on the bridge, causing all truck traffic to be detoured.  The project demonstrates the Department’s commitment to bringing the nation’s aging road and highway infrastructure to a state of good repair. 

In addition, TIGER II funds are being used to support a $546 million TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line, a key piece of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 30/10 initiative to construct 12 major transit projects in 10 years rather than 30, exemplifying the Department’s commitment to bold, regional transportation projects that create jobs in the short term while reinvesting in long term economic competitiveness and livability.

Under TIGER II, more than $140 million is reserved for projects in rural areas. 

As a competitive program, TIGER II is able to fund the best projects from around the country.  Using merit-based evaluation criteria allows the Department of Transportation to address some of the nation’s most critical challenges like sustainability and economic competitiveness. 

This marks the first time that the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have joined together in awarding grants for localized planning activities that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing and urban development.  Almost 700 applicants sought up to $35 million in TIGER II planning grants and up to $40 million in HUD Sustainable Community Challenge Grants.  HUD’s funds can be used for localized planning efforts, such as development around a transit stop and zone or building code updates and improvements.  The two Departments, along with assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, participated in the evaluation of the planning grant applications. 

To ensure the important investments made by the Recovery Act continue, President Obama recently announced a comprehensive infrastructure investment plan that would be front-loaded with $50 billion to expand and renew America’s roads, railways and runways. To learn more about President Obama’s infrastructure investment plan, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/06/president-obama-announce-plan-renew-and-expand-america-s-roads-railways-

TIGER II grants were awarded to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area.  The projects chosen demonstrate their ability to contribute to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improve the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, increase energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and/or enhance the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections.  The Department also gave priority to projects that are expected to create and preserve jobs quickly and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity.

A complete list of capital grant recipients can be viewed at: http://www.dot.gov/docs/tiger2grantinfo.pdf

A complete list of planning grant recipients can be viewed at:

http://www.dot.gov/docs/tiger2planninggrantinfo.pdf


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US Ports Secure $95 Million In TIGER II Funding

From Dredgingnews Online A Worldwide Dredging Industry Forum By Clarksons

WASHINGTON --- US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this week announced a total of $557 million in ‘Tiger II’ infrastructure funding yesterday, following the US$1.5 billion awarded under Tiger I earlier this year. The port sector received 17 per cent of funding in Tiger II.

“The percentage of funding to ports for Tiger II grants is more than twice as much as in the first round of Tiger grants and moves us closer to the 25% of overall Tiger funding we believe is appropriate,” said the president of the American Association of Port Authorities, Kurt Nagle.

The seven approved port grants are: US$22.8 million for Miami to establish an intermodal container rail service; US$16 million to Los Angeles for an intermodal rail yard; US$13.6 million to Oregon’s Coos Bay to rehabilitate its rail link; US$13 million for a Mississippi River terminal in Cates Landing, Tennessee; US$10.5 million for barge cranes and renewable energy power generation in Providence, Rhode Island; US$10 million for rail access at Vancouver, Washington; and US$9 million to support a new 13 hectare box terminal in Port Manatee, Florida.


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

Amtrak Ridership Climbs 15 Percent In East Lansing

Melissa Domsic - mdomsic@lsj.com
October 19, 2010 - From LSJ.com

EAST LANSING — Ridership on Amtrak’s Blue Water line picked up this fiscal year as a record number of passengers used the East Lansing stop.

About 58,530 riders boarded or got off the national passenger railroad’s trains in East Lansing during fiscal year 2010 that ended in September. That was up about 15 percent from 50,953 a year earlier, according to statistics released by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

East Lansing’s ridership accounted for 18.6 percent of the 315,418 passengers for the Blue Water line, which runs from Port Huron to Chicago and stops in eight other Michigan cities. The East Lansing train station is located at 1240 S. Harrison Road, near Trowbridge Road.

Overall, the Blue Water line saw an 18.7 percent increase over the fiscal year after experiencing a 2.7 percent drop from 2008 to 2009.


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Amtrak Ridership In Pacific Northwest Increases

By John Gillie, staff writer -- The Olympian

STATE OF WASHINTON --- Amtrak ridership and ticket revenues were up both in the Pacific Northwest and nationwide in fiscal year 2010, Amtrak says.

The Amtrak Cascades trains linking Eugene, Ore., with Vancouver, B.C., via several I-5 corridor cities including Tacoma showed a 13 percent ridership increase, to 836,499. Revenues were up 31.6 percent.

The Empire Builder from Seattle and Portland to Chicago saw a 3.5 percent ridership jump, to 533,493. That train’s ticket sales and other revenues were up 8.2 percent, Amtrak said.

The Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles experienced a 2.7 percent ridership gain in the fiscal year, with a 14.6 percent revenue increase.

Nationwide, Amtrak sold 28,716,857 tickets, an increase of 5.7 percent. Overall revenues rose by 9 percent, the national passenger railway system said.

Since 2000, Amtrak ridership has shown a 37 percent increase nationwide.


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STATION LINES... Station Lines...  

In The Midst Of The ARC Controversy…

 

Ground-Breaking At Moynihan Penn

NEW YORK, NY--- Even as the fate of a long-planned New Jersey-Manhattan rail tunnel remained up in the air, New York City officials and other dignitaries wielded hammers and shovels this past week to break ground for another long-planned project, the expansion of Penn Station, now crowded into a few walkways under Madison Square Garden, but once the grand and memorable entrance into Manhattan, into a grand new train station appropriate to the Greatest City in The World.

The groundbreaking for what is being called the “Penn Station Annex” but which if properly executed will be far greater than that quotidian sobriquet, is the beginning of Phase I of the transformation of the former Farley Post Office into a new train station named after the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the project “great news for America.” He said the new Moynihan Station will be at the heart of America’s high-speed rail system.

The $276 million price tag for the first phase includes $83 million in federal stimulus money, the AP reported.

“Now more than ever, New York needs to embrace new projects so that the infrastructure grows as the city grows,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who has championed the expansion of Penn Station into the James A. Farley Post Office building across the street.

Phase I includes expanding the 33rd Street connector between Penn Station and the Farley building, creating two new entrances into the station from the Farley building and improving access to tracks by adding escalators, elevators and stairways. The work is to be completed by 2016.

Moynihan, who died in 2003, sought to partially recreate the neoclassical temple to transportation that was lost when the original Penn Station was demolished in the 1960s and the current building erected on the same site. The project is a modest step toward Moynihan’s vision of creating a grand gateway to New York. But elected officials hailed the groundbreaking as a milestone nonetheless.

“A dream once deferred is now being fulfilled,” Gov. David Paterson said.

Officials said the station expansion will go forward regardless of whether a stalled New Jersey-New York rail tunnel is built. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed the $9-$14 billion project (the higher number reflecting recent cost estimates) because of anticipated cost overruns but agreed to a two-week reprieve at LaHood’s urging, which as of this writing is still waiting resolution.

Asked about the tunnel, LaHood said, “He and I agreed that over a two-week period we would put together a plan for a path forward, and we will be meeting with him at the end of that two weeks and presenting the information.”


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)67.1566.47
Canadian Pacific (CP) 65.4365.20
CSX (CSX)61.1859.54
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)46.0344.73
Kansas City Southern (KSU)42.0641.42
Norfolk Southern (NSC)62.1061.51
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.7013.00
Union Pacific (UNP)86.3185.21


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

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Rail Projects Survive Massive UK
Government Spending Cuts

This Is Not Your Father’s Tory Government

via Financial Times Deutschland and UK Railnews and NCI contributor Jim Lashmer

London – A number of major rail projects in Great Britain appear to have survived the meat clever treatment in the recently enacted across-the-board government budget cuts of nearly 20%, which the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition-lead UK parliament enacted this week. The biggest cuts will hit the UK’s military and defense budget as well as Britain’s welfare system and various government-assisted housing programs, as well as government pension plans. Reaction from the British public has so far been muted, but a number of experts and observers of British politics and public opinion have stated that public unrest and wide-spread strikes similar to what is currently taking place in France may come in three to six months time, when the budget cuts really begin to take full effect.

The most immediate effect of the new budget reductions for rail transportation will be substantially increased passenger fares by perhaps a 3% increase above the general inflation rate in the coming year. Major rail projects in the UK, most notably the massive Crossrail underground regional and intercity train tunnel project in the greater London area, as well as expansion of light rail systems in Birmingham and Nottingham, upgrades to the London Underground subway system as well as planning for HS2 – a high speed rail corridor from London to Manchester and beyond – have remained intact. Electrification of the few remaining non-electrified rail lines in northwest England in the Manchester, Liverpool and Preston areas will also proceed. Electrification of the main rail corridor from London to Wales, known as the Great Western Main Line, appears to be questionable.

But mixed in with the good news is the point that future capital spending on Britain’s rail infrastructure will be reduced by approximately 11% per year in the coming years. Also funding for operations will likely be reduced to levels several percentage points below today’s levels, thus signaling even more fare increases for passenger rails as well as possible service reductions.

Most industry observers saw the recently released budget details as a sign of a new, more positive and pro-rail attitude in the recently elected Conservative government, which has recently indicated that it prefers spending for high-speed rail in the UK rather than increasing capacity at UK airports for domestic airline service, with one cabinet level minister going as far to say that the goal is to eliminate domestic air travel in the UK altogether and replace it with a new high-speed rail network. The contrast to previous Conservative-lead UK governments is stark: under several Conservative governments in the past 50 years, most notably under the Thatcher / Major administrations from 1979 through 1997, the UK rail system was alternately starved, strangled or amputated by the government.


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ICE-3 Reaches London

First for a German High-Speed Train in the United Kingdom

via HAZ newspaper, NDR and CNN

London - Deutsche Bahn – German Railways – debuted an ICE-3 train in London on Tuesday (19th October) this week at a press conference in St. Pancras station. The high speed train set, which was displayed in London’s St. Pancras International station, is one of six ICE-3M (DB class 406) train sets currently in regular operation between Frankfurt and Paris. A locomotive hauled the train set from the Channel Tunnel over the HS1 high-speed rail line into London. The ICE-3M is capable of making this trip under its own power, but due to odd and red-tape plastered EU procedures and agreements, individual EU countries such as the UK, France, Germany and others continue to impose unique and often non-transparent certification regulations on rolling stock, regardless of whether or not the rolling stock has passed rail authority approvals in other EU countries. Therefore this particular ICE-3M train set was not allowed to operate under its own power in British territory, since it has not yet been run through the UK certification process. Certification for operation in the Channel Tunnel is handled by yet another government agency, the IGC, which consists of members from the French and British governments.

Deutsche Bahn (DBAG) chairman Rüdiger Grube stated that this is the first time in 15 years that a new train has run through the Channel Tunnel. Deutsche Bahn plans to run ICE-3 trains from London St- Pancras via Lille, France and Brussels, Belgium to Frankfurt vial Cologne (Köln) starting in 2013. DBAG also plans to offer London – Brussels – Amsterdam services with ICE-3 trains. Industry observers expect that DBAG will use new Velaro D (DB class 407) ICE-3 train sets for the London services, and not the ICE-3M (DB Class 406) train set, one of which was shown in London this past week.

German high-speed ICE-3 train at St Pancras Station

Photo: Deutsche Bahn AG

London Calling – the first time ever a German high-speed train rolled on English tracks. This ICE-3M, named for the southern German city of Schwäbisch Hall, participated in trial runs as well as evacuation tests in the Channel Tunnel, then was towed to London for a press conference and viewing ceremony, which took place on the 19th of October.

If all goes as planned, passengers will be able to travel between London and Frankfurt in just 5 hours. British Transport Minister Theresa Villiers says that this is great news for passengers, who can look forward to traveling to new European destinations in a greener, easier way from 2013. High-speed rail is a more convenient alternative to road or air travel for many people, allowing them to board in the city center and work along the way, she added.

An evacuation drill of the ICE-3 was staged in the Channel Tunnel, with industry observers stating that the evacuation drill went well and should assist in obtaining IGC approval and a revision to existing Channel Tunnel regulations which currently require that passenger trains operating in the Channel Tunnel be twice the length of the ICE-3 in order to provide a direct route inside the train to an exit door which is within a few meters of an emergency exit door in the Channel Tunnel to an auxiliary escape tunnel, regardless of where the train comes to a stop.

The other regulatory hurdle still to be overcome is a prohibition of EMU trains in the Channel Tunnel. The apparent basis for this regulation is a theoretical risk that EMU train sets such as ICE-3 with traction motors and step-down transformers located under the passenger cars rather than in isolated power cars / locomotives, as is the case with the existing Eurostar train fleet, are potentially more dangerous to the passengers in the case of a fire or major electrical fault and that an EMU does not offer the traction power redundancy that two separate electric locomotives offer. Several decades of operation of various EMU-configured intercity trains, including ICE-3 and ICE-T, in various long tunnels in countries varying from Germany, Switzerland and Austria, to the USA, Japan, Australia and Korea strongly suggest that this theoretical risk is in reality insignificant or even zero.

In a related development, the French government and Alstom confirmed that they will sue Eurostar in the UK court system for its decision to purchase Siemens Velaro train sets, which are similar to ICE-3, because they believe the Velaro fails to meet existing Channel Tunnel safety regulations because of its EMU configuration. Several French government officials have also stated that they will do whatever they can to block ICE-3 trains sets of DBAG from using the Channel Tunnel for the same reasons. France has 50% control over the IGC, a rail safety regulatory authority with jurisdiction over the Channel Tunnel and the approaches at either end to the tunnel.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

The ARC Tunnel Project: Posturing Intensifies;
Governor Stands Firm and Rider Advocates
Continue the Campaign

Fifth of a Series

By David Peter Alan

New Jersey waited for Governor Chris Christie’s final decision on the “Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project last Friday, October 22. He postponed that decision until next week, but Assembly Transportation Committee and Democratic Party Chair John Wisniewski made news instead. In a statement reported widely in the state’s media, he maintained that the cost of the project, including the proposed deep- cavern- terminal under 34th Street, is still on budget at $8.7 billion. Wisniew again challenged Christie’s number of $11 to 14 billion including all contingencies, also estimated by the FTA.

Writing in www.njnewsroom.com the night before, Tom Hester quoted Wisniewski as saying that the claim of cost overruns “seems as though it was pulled out of thin air by the Governor. The Governor is risking New Jersey’s economic future with numbers that, at least according to these documents, have no basis in reality.” Wisniewski released voluminous documents obtained through the state’s Open Public Records at (OPRA). The documents had not been released to the public before. They were released on the party’s website, www.assemblydems.org.

A review of the documents by Lackawanna Coalition Political Director James P. Raleigh indicated significant cost overruns, indicating that Wisniewski’s assertion is questionable. Much of the original account of $313 million for “unallocated contingencies” has been spent; the balance is now $66 million. A monthly progress report from August, updated on October 5, had indicated that while $5.8 billion had been allocated to “construction,” only $14 million had already been spent.

Advocate Joseph M. Clift said that the allocated contingency accounts have been substantially spent as well. “A review of the August report suggests that there should be great concern that the project will go over budget. The way the project has maintained an $8.7 billion price tag is by shifting financial resources from construction, where only zero 0.2 percent of the money budgeted has actually been spent, to a myriad of categories that have far exceeded the original budget.”

Clift cited two examples: New York property costs are currently 39 percent higher than the original budget, with only 8 percent of the money spent. Construction contracts have increased by 4 percent, with only 0.2 percent of the money spent. “These draw-downs on contingencies and the management practices behind them are the subject of FTA’s concern that NJT could not complete the project on budget and on schedule. Instead of taking money from categories that have just started and putting it into areas that are way over budget, the fiscally prudent action to take would be to increase the overall budget. Otherwise, there is an extreme risk that the money will run out before the project is finished.”

The Democrats also disclosed an email sent by NJT Assistant Executive Director Lynn Bowersox, a member of the ARC Executive Steering Committee, to former Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox on October 7 that said: “Don’t need Portal South without ARC.” Until then, NJT had always claimed that the Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement Project had “independent utility” and would be a worthwhile useful investment, even without the ARC project. Rider advocates have objected for years to NJT’s separation of the ARC and Portal Bridge projects, claiming it was an artificial distinction created to make costs appear lower than they actually are.

On Thursday, October 7th, Christie announced that he was ordering the shutdown of the project, because New Jersey could not afford its share of the cost. A committee composed of top managers and Board Chairs from New Jersey Transit (NJT) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued a report that said that the project would cost in the range of $11 to 14 billion; far more than the $8.7 billion figure that NJT had previously claimed.

The governor also said that the project was “flawed”; it would no go to the existing Penn Station or the East Side of Midtown Manhattan, and Amtrak could not use the proposed new line. These were the same objections that advocates for the Garden State’s rail riders have been raising for several years.

The next day, Christie agreed to “have NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein and members of his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks” after meeting with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff in Trenton. Despite the appearance of a reprieve for the project, Christie said that New Jersey still could not afford it, while the “orderly shutdown” of the project is proceeding, as of this writing. Weinstein confirmed this at a meeting of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition on Monday, October 18th. At this writing, the reprieve continues.

Since that time, advocates for the riders have hoped for the adoption of a “middle ground” policy: new tunnels would be built, but they would be built into the existing Penn Station. They had proposed the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, which would entail bringing the new tunnels and tracks into a central hub that would include the existing Penn Station and the conversion of the Farley Post Office building across Eighth Avenue into a part of the new station. Under the advocates’ proposal, all platforms would be built long enough to accommodate twelve-car trains, and pedestrian flow would also be improved. The result would be a major increase in capacity.

During the first week after Christie’s announcement, an “air of quiet expectancy” prevailed. Since then, the mood has changed drastically. Proponents of the project, including the proposed deep-cavern terminal twenty stories below street level, have intensified their attack on the governor.

Project supporters, representing both business and labor groups, have found new ways to push for the current plan, with a deep-cavern terminal. They have done this without addressing the overall cost of the project, or the improvements that could be obtained by bringing new tunnels into the existing Penn Station under the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, one of the current plan’s strongest supporters, reportedly approached a private financial firm about securing funds to pay for additional costs of the project. This initiative was reported by the Newark Star-Ledger on Wednesday, October 13th, although the name of the firm was not disclosed. The report quoted Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chair of the state’s Democratic Party, as saying that such funding would come at a cost: “Any private firm coming in is going to look for a return on their investment.” At this writing, nothing further has been reported about any effort to obtain private financing for the project.

Lautenberg also held a news conference at Penn Station in Newark to extol the project’s benefits. In response, on Sunday, October 17th, Asbury Park Press columnist Bob Ingle criticized Lautenberg for continuing to defend the proposal and said that Lautenberg was merely “sounding old themes.” Ingle continued call for new tunnels to go into the existing New York Penn Station. He also said: “U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg is missing a chance to demonstrate his worth in Washington and become a hero back home but instead he keeps pushing the same old plan.”

Gov. Christie is standing firm on his decision to shut down the project and his conclusion that New Jersey cannot afford to be responsible for cost overruns, which could go as high as $5 billion. Ingle quoted Christie in reaction to Lautenberg: “Senator Lautenberg can do what senators do, which is talk. … What governors are supposed to do is decide. If it’s going to cost New Jerseyans two to five billion more than what it’s projected to cost now, it’s not going to happen.”

Meanwhile, New Jersey’s other senator, Robert Menendez, also a Democrat, has proposed a slimmed-down plan that he contends would save $1.5 billion. Larry Higgs reported in the Asbury Park Press on Tuesday, October 19th that Menendez suggested five ways in which the project could be reduced in scope to keep costs down: eliminating a planned storage yard in Kearny, eliminating a loop track that would bring Main/Bergen and Pascack Valley Line trains from Secaucus into the proposed new line, reducing the deep-cavern terminal to a single level, deferring equipment purchases and eliminating entrances in Midtown Manhattan. Except for the proposal to eliminate a storage yard, all of Menendez’s other proposals would adversely affect service offered to customers.

The biggest difference between the proposal rejected by Gov. Christie and the one offered by Sen. Menendez is that Menendez would cut the proposed deep-cavern terminal from two levels with three tracks each, to a single level. That would leave only three new tracks. Instead of NJT’s proposed capacity increase during the busiest hour of the morning of 23 to 25 trains, the Menendez proposal would only increase capacity by half that amount; 12 to 13 trains. Looking a capacity enhancement alone, the Menendez proposal appears even less cost-effective than the plan that the governor is now shutting down. As other alternatives appear less cost-effective, the Moynihan/Penn Station First plan favored by rider advocates improves in comparison.

Menendez’s other suggestions would also detract from the utility of the project. Eliminating the proposed loop track between Secaucus and the new line would require riders on the Main/Bergen and Pascack Valley Lines to continue transferring at Secaucus Station for a train to New York. The offer of a one-seat ride to New York City for those riders would no longer be in effect. Neither would the offer of vastly-increased capacity. With equipment purchases delayed, NJT could not operate the schedule it had planned to run after completion of the project. Without infrastructure to support that level of new capacity, there is no need for equipment to fill capacity that would not exist.

It is also unclear where entrances to a new station would be eliminated. If entrances on the Sixth or Eighth Avenue ends were eliminated, one end of the platforms would have no street exit located above it. If entrances on Seventh Avenue are not built, the space between entrances would be two long blocks. Again, customer convenience would be reduced; a result that would not occur under the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative.

Still, the governor is standing firm. Higgs reported the same day that Christie’s spokesperson, Kevin Roberts, said “So long as billions of dollars in expected cost overruns are left to New Jersey’s taxpayers, the state cannot move forward with the project.”

The voices of the organizations that have consistently supported the project, including the proposed deep-cavern terminal, have become more strident during the past week. These include the business-supported groups New Jersey Future, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) and Environment New Jersey. In a rare move, RPA and Tri-State representatives appeared at several New Jersey Transit rail stations on Monday, October 18th and distributed leaflets to commuters, urging them to call Gov. Christie to demand that the project be built. NJT does not allow distribution of leaflets at the stations it owns without first obtaining a permit. It is not known at this writing whether or not the leafleting was done under permits from NJT.

Four organizations (New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, rather than Environment New Jersey, along with the other three) have taken out an ad under RPA’s banner, with the headline: “Canceling the new Hudson River rail tunnel will dig an even bigger hole for New Jersey.” The ad urges readers to call Gov. Christie and tell him we need ARC. The ad does not mention how New Jersey could pay for its share of the cost of the project, plus overruns. It also does not say who paid for the ad itself.

The ad by the project’s supporters says “the facts speak for themselves” and then misstate the facts. They claim that Gov. Christie opposes building a rail tunnel, but his statements say that he opposes paying money New Jersey does not have, and said that the project with a deep-cavern terminal is flawed. Project supporters say: “cost overruns are a myth” but they do not challenge the latest cost numbers from NJT, the Port Authority, or even the Federal Transit Administration. Sen. Menendez proposes cutting the cost of the project, but its organizational supporters do not.

The ad also says that New Jersey will be throwing away $3 billion in federal money if the project is not built. The rider advocates do not want to see money that could be used for a cost-effective rail project in New Jersey spent on highways instead. They maintain that new tunnels should be built to the existing Penn Station under the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative. That plan would bring new tunnels into Manhattan, with other benefits and without $3 billion of the cost of the project with a deep-cavern terminal.

In its most emotional appeal, the ad says: “complaints about the tunnel’s route are a smokescreen.” Rider advocates not only deny such an allegation, but also point out that they have made statements in many public forums about their concerns and they have given tours of the Penn Station area to demonstrate the truth of their claim; tours that no representatives of the four organizations placing the ad have been willing to take. Joseph M. Clift of the Regional Rail Working Group responded to the ad by saying: “There’s no ‘smokescreen’ about what we’re doing. We’re not hiding anything. We have an alternative that performs better and saves money.” Clift also said that the time it would take many commuters to reach their offices form a deep-cavern terminal would cancel any time advantage they might gain with a one-seat ride to a deep-cavern terminal.

Labor organizations, including the New Jersey AFL-CIO, have also campaigned for the project, citing the construction jobs it will create. Rider advocates argue that taking new tunnels to the existing Penn Station, along with an enhanced Moynihan plan will also create jobs, while building a facility that will better serve the riding public, at reduced cost.

At this writing, none of the proponents of the project have addressed how the billions of dollars to pay the increased cost would be raised. Neither have they attempted to refute the advantages that would be gained by building new tunnels with the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative, including a cost saving of $3 billion.

Supporters of the project with a deep-cavern terminal and much of the media continue to remain silent about the Moynihan/Penn Station First plan favored by advocates for New Jersey’s rail riders, along with other rail advocacy groups elsewhere in the nation. To supporters of the current project, there are only two alternatives: build the project with a deep-cavern terminal, or do not build anything.

There are a few exceptions. A Letter to the Editor by National Corridors Initiative President and D:F Publisher James P. RePass, stressing the importance of ARC as a project with region-wide impact, was published in the New York Times (reported in last week’s edition of D:F). His letter was published only after RePass blasted the Times for “provincialism on the Hudson” (reported in D:F, October 11th). Columnists Paul Mulshine in the Star-Ledger and Bob Ingle in the Asbury Park Press have raised the same issues advocates have raised, and Press reporter Larry Higgs has covered the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative in a detailed article on October 2d. Advocate Joseph M. Clift appeared with a panel for “On the Record,” a public-affairs program on New Jersey Network, the state’s PBS television channel, to argue the case for the advocates’ preferred alternative.

While coverage of the advocates’ preferred alternative has been rare in the “establishment” media, the advocates are confident that Gov. Christie and Transportation Commissioner James S. Simpson are fully aware of the issues. Christie mentioned in his October 7th press conference, where he called for a shutdown of the project, that it was flawed, citing the lack of connectivity with other rail services and lack of potential extension to the East Side. These are some of the same flaws that advocates have cited.

On the New York side, coverage has focused on an event that could bring Moynihan Station, a westward expansion of the existing Penn Station, closer to reality. New York Governor David Paterson and other state officials held an event to announce the start of Moynihan Station Project Phase I on Monday, October 18th. The current Moynihan proposal has flaws, but only minor ones. Phase I includes access improvements for half of NJT riders. All New Jersey riders would benefit if the project were expanded to provide access to all tracks serving NJT trains. Extension of platforms serving Tracks 1 through 4 (used by NJT), along with the addition of new points of vertical access that would allow riders to go to and from the platforms, would greatly enhance performance of the proposed station, and at a modest cost.

New York seems prepared to go forward with the Moynihan Project, which would also benefit Amtrak. Advocates still hope to bring New Jersey onto the bandwagon. They argue that every dollar New York puts into the project is a dollar New Jersey can save. They want regional cooperation toward a project that will directly benefit Amtrak and NJT, along with their riders. They also want a project that would allow expansion to the East Side of Midtown Manhattan when funding becomes available in the future. This is buildable from the existing Penn Station, but not practicable from the proposed 34th Street deep-cavern terminal.

In the meantime, the advocates do still push to get the word out, while hoping for a positive result. They do not expect anyone to give New Jersey billions of dollars to build the entire project, including a deep-cavern terminal. Even if someone suddenly committed such a generous act, Gov. Christie has pronounced the project “flawed” and the advocates hope that he will work to change the project to Moynihan/Penn Station First.

New York is pushing for Moynihan, and Amtrak will benefit from it, too. Advocates from New Jersey and elsewhere hope that New Jersey will join with them to produce a rail hub worthy of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area in the Twenty-First Century.

At this writing, no definite decision has been made, although it is difficult to imagine a series of events that would result in construction of a deep-cavern terminal. Advocates continue to push for the project to be built, with tunnels into the existing Penn Station. We will bring you the governor’s decision when he announces it.

It is still possible for the Moynihan/Penn Station First alternative to be built. When the ARC Project was first proposed in 1995, no other alternative made any sense. Many things happened to bring the project, and everyone concerned with it, to this point. Those events will be the focus of the next article in this series.

 

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, which has participated in the campaign to replace the proposed deep-cavern terminal with the Moynihan/Penn Station Frist alternative.


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