ARC Revived as the Amtrak Gateway Project

» New rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan, left for dead a few months ago, comes roaring back as the Gateway Tunnel. Yet it now faces competition for limited funds.

Amtrak will not allow itself to miss the train for President Obama’s effort to “win the future.” Two weeks after the State of the Union address, in which Mr. Obama announced his intention to promote a high-speed rail system that connects 80% of the country’s population, the national railroad has made its first move.

This morning, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman and New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez headlined a press conference in which the railroad articulated a basic framework for a new rail tunnel into Manhattan. The connection — named the Gateway Project — would generally follow the alignment of the Access to the Region’s Core project, a $10 billion link that would have carried New Jersey Transit commuter trains into a new terminal before it was cancelled last October by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who cited state budget concerns for his decision.

In connection with the replacement of the moribund Portal Bridge just west of Secaucus Station, the Gateway Tunnel would represent the first, $13.5 billion, step in Amtrak’s $117.5 billion plan to upgrade the entire Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston to 220 mph speeds. Completion of this stage is proposed for 2020.

Though the necessity of a new rail link between New Jersey and Manhattan has been evident for years because of increased passenger traffic and decaying infrastructure, the decision by Mr. Christie appeared to have put any such project on hold for a decade or more, since funds committed to the project — $3 billion from both the Port Authority and the Federal Transit Administration — would be redistributed. But this announcement from Amtrak changes the equation significantly. In light of the President’s active support of high-speed rail and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica’s excitement about the Northeast Corridor, it may well be a viable program.

No funding is currently available for the project, even the $50 million necessary to kickstart engineering studies. In addition, the Gateway Tunnel faces competition that has arisen since ARC was cancelled: A potential extension of the New York Subway’s 7 Train, a project that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has endorsed in recent months.

That project could arguably be constructed for fewer funds, since it would require little new tunneling under expensive Manhattan real estate. In addition, the Subway link would have the serious advantage of direct service to Grand Central Terminal and Queens, 24 hours a day — something neither New Jersey Transit or Amtrak will be able to offer. (Amtrak proposes to loop the 7 Train east along 31st Street to serve the station, a questionable proposition.)

Nonetheless, the Gateway Tunnel would service to reinforce the Northeast Corridor intercity rail system far more significantly, and even more than ARC would have. That’s because, unlike ARC, the Gateway Tunnel would be connected to Penn Station, allowing Amtrak trains running from Washington to Boston to use the link. Several new dead-end platforms would be constructed just south of the existing station, forming a new terminus for New Jersey Transit and opening up more space in the existing Penn Station for Amtrak and potentially Metro-North trains from Upstate New York and Connecticut.

ARC would have dead-ended into a cavern far underground, making it both incompatible with the existing rail network but also deeply inconvenient to its riders, who would have had to ride long escalators to the top.

The new tunnel’s capacity would be split between Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, with 8 intercity trains and 13 commuter trains per hour (added to 12 and 20, respectively, today). This represents a decrease from the 25 additional hourly commuter trains ARC would have provided. The plans to connect the Bergen and Passaic lines to ARC to allow for direct service to Manhattan have been abandoned.

Yet the advantages of allowing through trains to use this facility ultimately mean Amtrak will not have to build yet another link under the Hudson in the coming years, as it had planned. In addition, the Gateway Tunnel would provide a vital backup in case something goes wrong with the 100-year-old tunnels currently serving trains between Manhattan and New Jersey.

Amtrak will have to construct a very careful case for its project in order to assemble the necessary funding, especially in the context of a Republican Congress that has made cutting national investments its major priority. Unlike ARC, Gateway would serve intercity as well as commuter traffic, so it is unclear whether the Federal Transit Administration would agree to sign up to aid in sponsoring it. On the other hand, the Federal Railroad Administration, which administers high-speed rail funds, might want to get involved — but this project would do nothing to speed up trains, since it would simply duplicate a service that already exists.

Ultimately, the national railroad’s best argument for the project is that it would serve national economic growth objectives, providing just the sort of infrastructure repair that the President has so forcefully recommended. It would be difficult even for conservative Republicans to argue that this project does not fulfill Washington’s mandate to improve the nation’s transportation systems, since it is of course at its core a connection between two states.

Images above: Amtrak Gateway Project Maps, from Amtrak

106 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • AlexB

    What is “Block 780″, aka “Penn Station South?” Is this an ARC type station? Will they have to demolish the whole black to build it?

    I thought ARC was somewhat bloated because they were going to build a huge new (unnecessary) train station 150 below street level. Not doing that, how did the price tag go up?

    • It would have to be bought by Amtrak and bulldozed; I forgot to mention that very important point.

      The cost went up because this price includes the Portal Bridge, cost increases on the ARC project, and the new station.

    • AlexB

      Is the price so different because they are including the re-built Portal Bridge and the extension of the 7 under 31st?

    • The Penn Station South station is completely redundant, but technically it’s better than ARC, since it would be connected to the old tunnel and the new tunnel would be connected to Penn.

      I don’t know how much of the ARC cost escalations were due to the cavern. I know it’s a large fraction, and that the actual tunnel under the river had little to no contribution to the cost overrun, but there were a few other issues, especially real estate acquisitions on the Manhattan side.

      I presume that the high cost of the Amtrak plan comes from a) massive real estate acquisitions in Midtown, and b) the inclusion of a station cavern, albeit one located closer to the surface.

      Portal Bridge should be around $1 billion according to the NEC Master Plan; it’s not a big contribution to the high cost.

      • Nathanael

        I suspect/hope the Penn Station South alignment gives the best positioning for a future tunnel connecting to Grand Central Lower Level (anyone remember Alternative G?). I will note that such a tunnel is in Amtrak’s pie-in-the-sky plans, and I hope that this scheme is designed to be maximally compatible with it.

      • Chris

        The nice thing about spending money buying real estate vs. building the deep cavern is that the real estate is a developable asset to the extent you can build on top of the station. So in theory you ought to be able to offset some/most of the cost of financing land acquisition with revenue from future development of the area.

  • jake

    Saying that this project would do nothing to speed up intercity trains is not entirely true. The new bridge over the Hackensack River in Seacaucus would allow for higher speeds, & all intercity traffic could be routed along this bridge & into the Gateway Tunnel.

    • AlanF

      Yes, I agree, this project would speed up the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The ARC plans for the north Portal Bridge replacement was to allow 90 mph speeds, up from the current 60 mph slow order for the 100+ year old Portal Bridge. But the 2 new tunnels would address the bottleneck problem and a frequent cause of delays getting into Penn Station in NYC. I know, I’ve been stuck on the Acela in the peak morning hours waiting on the NJ side to get into Penn Station enough times. Amtrak likely pads the NEC schedules a bit to allow for delays getting through the current tunnels. Would not be surprised if the new tunnels, bridges, and tracks on the NJ side would knock 3-5 minutes off the Amtrak travel time between Newark and NYC Penn Stations.

      Another point on the ARC plan projecting a 25 tph throughput to the deep 6 stub track extension. I’ve read posts from people familiar with train operations who thought that 25 tph number was never realistic for 6 stub tracks running through 2 long tunnels with no place to park trains. For 25 tph, the trains would have to unload and load in 10 minutes with no delays or buffer for any problems. The Gateway additional tph numbers for the 7 new stub tracks, places to park trains, and four available tunnels are more realistic at first glance.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Amtrak likely pads the NEC schedules a bit to allow for delays getting through the current tunnels. Would not be surprised if the new tunnels, bridges, and tracks on the NJ side would knock 3-5 minutes off the Amtrak travel time between Newark and NYC Penn Stations.

        The schedule used to be 15 minutes between Newark and New York and the trains were early most of the time. From the time the doors closed to the time they opened was frequently 13 minutes and if you got a engineer who didn’t mind going over 100 in the Meadows, 12 was possible.

      • May I ask which city’s train operations those people you’re quoting were familiar with? I’m willing to buy that 25 tph was unrealistic given the common dwell times of New York, but in Tokyo they run 28 tph to a two-track terminal on the Chuo Line, with no room to park trains.

    • The speed improvement coming from Portal Bridge is an entirely separate project. Amtrak’s had it on its wishlist for at least a year and a half, and made sure to list separate items for its own project and for NJT’s ARC-related improvements.

  • Edison

    Transportation merits aside, from a purely political prospective, why would the feds go anywhere near this? It’s clear they’re being looked at to be the main funder here, but any agreement to do so would be a capitulation to a rising republican star, one who is likely to run against Obama in the next election, and would vindicate his decision to kill ARC. There are plenty of places that need HSR money, and not enough funds to go around as it is. If i’m LaHood, i’m taking my money to a state where it’s wanted, not where I just got burned by the sitting governor on the same project 3 months ago.

    • Eric G

      hmmm….then again, New Jersey and New York are both Democrat-voting states at presidential elections, and perhaps there’s a political gain by investing in the states that support you, and by giving them back some of their taxes (given that NY and NJ pay more to federal than they receive back, and have therefore long subsidized Republican-voting states that won’t vote for any Democrat presidential candidate, ever, such as Montana, Alaska, Alabama, and so on).

  • andrew

    Will the junction connecting the Bergen/Main lines to the new tracks be included in this project? That was one of the primary goals of the original ARC project.

    Also, although it wouldn’t do much to solve the region’s long-term needs, the idea of extending the 7 train into NJ is certainly intriguing.

    • Ocean Railroader

      If they built the No 7 into New Jersey why don’t they dig out a thrid track tunnel on it and have the whole tunnel withs built to Amtrak train sizes so that some of the trains could break away off of the main line in New Jersey and run though the extra tunnel built next to the subway tunnel and then go into to Penn Station along it and then jump back on the main line once they get out of Penn Station.

      • That’s what I was thinking. Why not accomplish both infrastructure improvements?

        • Henry

          That isn’t being suggested because currently, the existing 7 line does not meet the FRA’s standards – its cars are too light, the signalling is different, etc.

          The 7 line doesn’t have to meet those requirements because it’s not physically connected to the rest of Amtrak. The moment it is, however, the FRA will require either limits in operating hours or expensive upgrades (and downgrades), so a connection is not possible.

          As for a “third track tunnel”, because of said FRA requirements, it would actually only operate as a one track tunnel, which has A LOT less capacity than a two track tunnel.

  • AlanF

    There is no mention of the ARC Secausus Loop connecting the Bergen/Main and Pascack valley lines in the Amtrak viewgraphs on the proposal. No reason for Amtrak to include it because the loop would be for NJ Transit use only. If NJ Transit wants to connect those lines to Penn Station it, then it is up to NJ and NJT to build the loop and the rail storage yard near Secaucus that were part of the ARC plans.

  • Scott Mercer

    New Jersey commuters get the shaft (or don’t get the tunnel shaft, actually) in favor of long distance Amtrak service.

    Elections have consequences.

    • Craig

      I don’t know about that — this seems like a decent outcome for New Jersey commuters and taxpayers.

      Instead of being on the hook for $7 billion* (or more) in ARC spending for 25 new trains an hour, New Jersey instead gets 13 new trains an hour at what will likely be a far lower cost. Even assuming New Jersey makes some significant contribution to this project, it is still able to accomplish many of ARC’s goals at a much lower cost to the state’s treasury.

      * ($10 billion mid-line estimated ARC cost less the $3.3 billion in federal contribution)

      • Craig, I agree that this should be cheaper and at least almost as good (in reality, better). But the cost estimate released is $13.5 billion. This is the same Amtrak that’s proposing to build standard HSR in the Northeast for the cost of a maglev subway; do not expect any cost control.

      • AlexB

        NJ Transit riders do lose out. Under ARC, every line would have gotten a one seat ride to Penn – a major goal of the project. Under this, the riders coming from the north still have to transfer at Secaucus.

        • Eric

          I dont see how this is a loss for commuters that commute from north of Secaucus. This tunnel simply lays the foundation for additional cross-Hudson capacity. NJT lines from the north can always be merged into this line in the future, eventually providing one-seat rides for all lines.

        • Adirondacker12800

          Probably onto trains that will be room only as far out as Summit or Metropark.

  • david vartanoff

    Scott and all, No NJ riders do not lose out. Actually ALL riders win with this version. Four tunnels beat two. One larger contiguous station beats some deep cave, speeding up throughput at Portal benefits everyone.

    • Ocean Railroader

      I’m worried about the two existing 100 year plus tunnels in that they are going to have to shut down for repairs one day and that is going to mess up everyone’s plans.

  • Cameron Slick

    How exactly would New Jersey commuter get shafted if the Gateway Tunnel goes through? This is expanded capacity and increased speeds for all trains, and less walking within the station.

  • Chet

    Simply put, this is what the ARC project should have been from the start.

    Now all we need to the political courage to put the funds together to make it happen. In almost any other industrialized country, this would go from announcement to reality in just a few years. Things like this here, unfortunately, often take decades.

  • Sean

    No, it would not be difficult for conservative Republicans to oppose this project since it is RAIL, and as we are familiar with by now, ALL rail spending is a socialist plot to force Americans to live in government housing and surrender their freedom. And yes, conservatives do believe this. (Shudder).

  • jim

    Some random thoughts:

    1. The Port Authority is the key to this happening or not happening. If the PA takes the view that its $3B for ARC ought to be applied to this, then it will happen; if not, not. I have to assume that Boardman and Lautenberg have talked to Cuomo about it. Amtrak would need a partner with eminent domain powers in New York. The PA would be ideal.

    2. I don’t see why this can’t be phased. The Portal bridges are ready for contracts to be let, as are the tunnels through the Palisades and across the Hudson. Given immediate funding :) those pieces could go ahead. Even without expanding Penn Station, some additional Amtrak and NJT trains could then be scheduled: Penn Station isn’t at capacity. More (and the Hudson Line Metro North trains) would wait on Phase 2 — the Penn Station expansion.

    3. Penn Station South and Farley/Moynihan won’t both happen. Amtrak has long planned on Penn Station South and has long been reluctant to sign on to Farley/Moynihan. If Amtrak ends up running this, Farley/Moynihan is doomed.

    4. I wouldn’t necessarily assume the 7 new stub tracks are for NJT. Amtrak has been talking Penn Station South as its HSR station. Penn Station usage might well be (from north to south) LIRR, Amtrak conventional, NJT, Amtrak HSR, with LIRR and NJT expanding into Amtrak conventional during peak periods (as now).

    5. FTA funding might well be available. That money hasn’t yet been reallocated. Again, I have to assume that Boardman and Lautenberg will have talked to LaHood before making the announcement.

    • AlanF

      You should read the 10 page Amtrak viewgraph outlining the Gateway proposal. Moynihan Station is on the diagram. Amtrak would still move to it because it would give them more room for passenger traffic.

      The 7 stub tracks in the south station are of minimal use to Amtrak because trains can only reach Sunnyside Yard through a reverse move towards the tunnels. Amtrak could run Keystone service trains from there if the Keystone trains are not headed towards Sunnyside yard for servicing. The South station extension is for NJ Transit operations which would free up slots for Amtrak trains on the #5 and higher tracks.

      The problem with the FTA and PA funding that was allocated to the ARC project is that the engineering studies and EIS work will take at least several years. The FTA funds may have to be obligated to other projects long before the Gateway project is ready, especially if it needs to be protected from a Republican controlled House looking to rescind any unobligated transportation funds.

      • jim

        In order:

        Yes, Moynihan Station is on the diagram. That doesn’t mean it will be built. If there’s an expensive new station built just south of Penn Station, there won’t be money for an expensive new station just west of it.

        Amtrak currently runs just five tpd which terminate at New York but aren’t maintained there. So running everything through to Sunnyside makes sense. But if Amtrak starts running ten tph through the tunnels, most of them won’t continue to Massachusetts, because they can’t. On the existing line, there’s a two tph limit going into Boston, there’s a two tph limit on the Metro-North/ConnDOT tracks and a 19 tpd limit on the Connecticut moveable bridges. Even with some relaxation of those limits, most of ten tph into New York will terminate there (Washington-New York is the low-hanging fruit for HSR on the NEC). Acela 1 is maintained in Washington; Acela 2 will probably be maintained there; there will be no reason to run HSR trains terminating in New York through to Sunnyside. The Vision document explicitly says the HSR station will be south of the existing Penn Station. Believe it. When a new HSR line is built between New York and Boston, a new tunnel, perhaps along 31st St, will be built to connect to it. Again, that’s what the Vision says. One has to assume that the Vision is what Amtrak would like to see.

        Yes, engineering and EIS for some portions will take years. But when Christie canceled contracts were ready to be let for the Portal bridges; a contract had been let for the Palisades tunnel; bidders had been qualified for the under-river tunnel. If Gateway is going to use existing ARC plans as much as possible, then those pieces could move ahead, given funding. That’s probably on the order of $4B worth. Of course, if Gateway is going to modify those pieces, all bets are off.

  • Dan Berez

    Would this plan allow for a future ‘alt G’ tunnel to GCT?

  • I’m with Alon Levy. Why can’t Amtrak and NJ Transit improve their operations and thru-route trains, say with Metro North or LIRR, to get dwell times at Penn Station down to 1 or 2 minutes? With that sort of performance, the existing Penn station platforms and tracks would be all that is needed.

    Instead, the money saved could connect Penn and Grand Central stations, to allow that thru-routing of trains between New York and New Jersey, while improving Amtrak service.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Through routing doesn’t do much.
      Keeping the math simple they can run 30 trains an hour through each tunnel. There will be four tunnels or 120 trains an hour. There are 21 platforms, keeping the math simple, a train arriving and then departing each platform every ten minutes. Doesn’t really matter much if the train goes through or if the train turns around.
      And very debatable if they’d be able to get to 30 trains an hour through each tunnel. I’ve seen numbers as low as 17 an hour once you consider crossing the interlockings.

      • Part of the point of through-routing is that it moots the entire issue of interlockings. The reason NJT deemed Alt G lower-capacity is that trains would terminate in Penn, and then travel back to Jersey, crossing the inbound tracks at grade. Through-running moves these reverse operations to a variety of suburban stations, so that at each station fewer reversals per hour than 30 are required.

        • Adirondacker12800

          The express from Ronkonkama comes in on side of an island platform and the local from New Brunswick on the other side. They dwell for 8 minutes. They then both depart. It doesn’t really matter much if the train from NJ turns around and goes back or the train from LI goes to NJ. There’s still going to be a train cross the interlocking on both sides of the station.

          • No, actually, it matters a lot. If the trains run through, then half the platforms are used for eastbound trains and half are used for westbound trains. The track configuration is such that if the only extra infrastructure is a tunnel under the Hudson, then westbound and eastbound trains don’t ever need to cross at-grade.

            With Alt G as-is, there would be conflict between eastbound trains to Long Island and westbound trains from GCT, but it shouldn’t be difficult to add a grade-separated flying junction.

            • Nathanael

              I had always assumed a flying junction in Alt G, with westbounds from GCT flying under the tunnels to Long Island.

              • Alt G involves a flying junction, with GCT trains ducking under the East River Tunnels trains to hit tracks 1-5. However, it still involves an at-grade junction further west, if all tunnel pairs are used regularly. The existing North River Tunnel can be paired with the northern East River Tunnels without conflict, but then GCT-Penn-new tunnel and new tunnel-Penn-Long Island trains would conflict.

  • eldondre

    cost figures aside, this is the project that arc should have been from the start…am I the only one surprised amtrak is proposing something sensible? christie was right for killing arc (though the real question is how it got so screwed up to begin with). they should see an increase in capacity at much less risk to the nj taxpayer…and best of all, this benefits a much larger swath of people from Pennsylvanians to Virginians.

  • Roland S

    Cool. This seems like a much better project than ARC.

    I’m not sure what the details of Alt G were, but a 34th Street terminal, if extended eastward, would need to build underneath Herald Square and the spaghetti-bowl of subway lines there.

    However, the northern four tracks of Penn Station South can be extended east under relatively conflict-free 31st Street and then up Park to connect with East Side Access’ tail tracks at 38th.

    • Nathanael

      You need to connect to GCT lower level, not to ESA, because ESA doesn’t connect to the Park Avenue Tunnel (another stupid decision, but there you are).

      • jim

        The Amtrak HSR Vision has tunnels running from Penn Station South to a new deep station (roughly) under Grand Central, then continuing under Manhattan to surface in the Bronx and there connect into the Hell Gate Line, thus avoiding Sunnyside and Harold Interlocking, the Hell Gate Viaduct in Queens and the sharp curve off the Hell Gate Bridge on Randall’s Island.

        I don’t know whether this will happen, but it’s different from both Alt G and connecting into ESA. Of course, it offers nothing to NJT.

  • To everyone saying this is a good project: yes, it’s better than ARC Alt P. But it’s still not good. It has no connection to Grand Central, though it at least allows for one. Worse, it has a superfluous new station in Midtown Manhattan, built close to the surface (good) and involving tons of eminent domain in one of the most expensive areas in the world (bad). And it takes special talent to come up with a higher budget than ARC, the addition of Portal Bridge notwithstanding.

    • AlexB

      I’m confused as to how this would allow for the connection to Grand Cetnral. If Penn South is at the same level as Penn (more or less), then it will be directly in front of the PATH station, the BDFM and NRQ, and it will have to dive under the East River tunnels as it continues East and turns North on its way to GCT.

      Although the water tunnel was in the way of ARC, that wasn’t a problem that would have lasted forever. It seems easier to connect things that are many feet below the web of sewers, gas and power lines that are so close to the street level.

      • I’m not sure about the details – I’ve just read that it allows for a GCT connection. My guess is that there’s space between the BDFM/PATH and NRQ platforms.

        The water tunnel is not a problem at shallow level – it’s hundreds of feet underground, even deeper than the ARC cavern. The reason the ARC cavern was blocked is that DEP was concerned it would be too close; it proposed to wait until Water Tunnel 3 was finished, at the end of this decade, to shut down the old water tunnel for maintenance and strengthen its linings so that the ARC connection would be okay.

        The problem with a deep-level connection is that the elevation difference between the GCT lower level and the ARC cavern pushes the envelope on ruling grades. The average grade would be more than 3%, which is beyond the capability of the ultra-heavy locos NJT wants to run. An all-subsurface connection at least gets rid of that problem.

        • Adirondacker12800

          THey weren’t planning on using the lower level of Grand Central. They were planning on a lower level, like East Side Access. Some discussion of designing it so the trains could one day run to Rockefeller Center.

          • Yeah, that’s what I thought. You know my position on the usefulness of ARC-ESA.

            As for Rockefeller Center, was there an official discussion, or a proposal from IRUM trying to turn lemons into other lemons lemonade?

        • AlexB

          Thanks. I’s always thought it was just an issue of having to wait for water tunnel 3 to finish. Although that was a problem, I figured that by the time they’d planned the connecting tunnel, it wouldn’t be an issue. The grading thing is a real intractable problem, especially for moving trains quickly.

  • eldondre

    is the “new station” absolutely necessary? to be frank, the to biggest problems with arc’s budget were that it fell mostly on the state (see big dig nj) and that for all that money, it didn’t provide essential redundancy to penn station (to say nothing of the basement stations). it’s also worth noting that the budget for arc is rumored to have been low (just like the big dig). lastly, the new station would offer modern platforms as well as the opportunity to rebuild that block (for better or worse). lastly, it’s amtrak, government agencies are incapable of building things for reasonable costs. still, it’s far better than arc, and actually should be taken seriously. note that with arc, amtrak still would have had to build yet another set of tunnels so the true cost of arc was much higher.

  • It seems to me that if one built a new station in Manhattan, it should be somewhere in the east side along the tracks going from Penn station to Queens. With through-routing, all NJT and LIRR trains could stop both at Penn and said new station, taking pressure of Penn and reducing dwell times.

  • PeakVT

    A question for the through-running experts: with 4 tracks in each direction, would new platforms be needed if LIRR and NJT trains to NYP were operated as one system?

    • No. In fact, the platform count could be safely cut in half or more in such case, which would widen the platforms for faster egress.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Unfortunately taking platforms out of service for years while they reconfigure them isn’t a viable option.

        • They can construct temporary bridges overnight, like they do when they need to shut down a local track on the NEC.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Temporary bridges over what? The inadequate stairways? The out of service baggage elevators?

            • How about over one of a track, so that the adjacent track has platforms on both sides (“Spanish solution”) – one permanent, and one temporary with a permanent one next to it.

              platform | track | track | platform
              =>
              platform | track | bridge | platform

              • Adirondacker12800

                There’s a forest of stanchions holding up the station, Madison Square Garden, the subway, the street above the subway… . Many passengers would try to exit and be faced wit a support beam.

              • Fortunately, the places where the bridges would go would have none of those stanchions.

              • Adirondacker12800

                I must be imagining all the columns stanchions whatever those big hulking things are between the tracks.

              • The tracks themselves don’t have columns, though. The space between the tracks is less of a problem – it’d be free platform width.

              • Adirondacker12800

                He’s suggesting the Spanish solution. The doors on the far side of the train would open. Onto the support columns between the tracks for one platform and the tracks for the next platform.

              • I’m suggesting the Spanish solution, too. I don’t think the columns are a huge deal – their widest parts are just below the door level, and, looking at trains from the other side, few if any doors would open onto columns. I’ll post photographic evidence on Flickr soon if you’re interested.

                But it doesn’t even matter that much. First, if the columns mean the Spanish solution can’t work, instead they could pave over tracks in pairs, as was suggested by George Haikalis. There would be fewer doors, but at least the platforms would be even wider than the platforms at Chatelet-Les Halles.

                Second, I just timed how long it takes the people to exit two LIRR trains. The first time it was about 1:40, the second time it was about 1:25. Double it for through-running and it’s still well within station capacity. Penn would still be a shitty experience for the passengers, but at least it would be a more efficiently run shitty experience.

              • Photos start here, in case anyone cares.

    • PeakVT

      I’ve made a map of some of the proposals as I understand them. Let me know if I’ve missed something.

      • I don’t think you’ve missed anything. Just one thing is a little unclear on your map: Alts G and S, as proposed, would feed primarily into the southern tracks and then continue east, so they should appear on 31st.

        • PeakVT

          So the tracks from the west for G/S would be on 31st St for the entire distance, instead of squeezing through the neck under the AP building? I’ve updated the map to reflect that. Heading from NYP to the east, both options were already 31st, though there are so many lines they are hard to pick out.

          • jim

            They would run under the Ziggurat (I can’t think of it as the AP building because I worked in it from 1970-4). There’s a whole bunch of tracks run under the Ziggurat: the four leading to the LIRR yards, six necking down to two into the North River Tunnels and five known as the A-yard, four of which terminate at the Tenth Ave wall and one of which runs into the Empire Connection tunnel under the LIRR yards. The tracks from the ARC tunnel, and, apparently, the tracks from the Gateway tunnel, would have connected to the southernmost two tracks of the A-yard.

      • Nathanael

        Sweet map. Thanks for it!

  • FG

    For those of you with access (slightly off topic, sorry), there is a large advertorial and some features stories about major underground infrastructure in NYC from the building trades perspective in the January 24 Engineering News-Record. Some tech perspectives on both the ARC and East Side Access tunnels. No affiliation, just an interesting slew of articles – it reminds me how simple my local infrastructure is (especially water supply).

  • Henry

    I have a question (well, a couple). Why do the Gateway tunnels have a lower capacity than ARC? It follows the exact same path, but there’s less capacity (25 trains per hour in ARC, 21 for Gateway).

    Also, I question the logic of building so close to street level. Isn’t it possible to build a station maybe, 40 feet underground and then just build station entrances into a brand new building? Manhattan is expensive, and Midtown is even more so.

    What happened to the connections to the BDFM and NQRW/Path Stations on 34th?

    Honestly, I don’t see why an extension to Grand Central should be built. Wouldn’t a people mover be cheaper (and not subject to Amtrak delays?)

    • A people mover is useful if you intend nobody to transfer from a suburban line feeding into Penn to a suburban line feeding into Grand Central. Connect Penn and GCT and you’ve just saved people 2 annoying transfers.

    • Nathanael

      A GCT-Penn connection not only saves people 2 transfers (currently 3 by subway) but also allows through-running for Metro-North, so incoming and outgoing trains no longer conflict.

      Most interestingly it allows substantial through running from Philadelphia to Albany, which is currently not straightforward.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Amtrak, could if they wanted to, run trains from Albany to Philadelphia and beyond. They choose not to.

        • The reason they choose not to is that it would require a reverse move at Penn Station.

          • Adirondacker12800

            They know how to do them, they do them at Boston, Union Station in DC and Philadelphia all the time. For that matter they do one with those trains in Penn Station in New York.

            • They judged such a reverse move not worth it, since an engine change would be required anyway. That’s at least the official explanation for why they discontinued the through-running to Washington.

              • Adirondacker12800

                I don’t know if there ever was through running to Washington. Just like there’s never been through running to Mineola. At least not from Upstate. ( There used to be parlor car service from DC to the Hamptons )

              • If I remember correctly, the Adirondack service used to be Washington-Montreal.

              • Adirondacker12800

                What is now the Vermonter was the DC-Montreal train, The Montrealer and the Laurentian. Sorta kinda, the route north of Springfield is very different.

              • Not just – I think there was also through-service to the D&H line.

                In any case, Amtrak did consider sending the Adirondack to Washington. What made it decide against it was precisely the need for a reverse move and an engine change.

              • Adirondacker12800

                The service through Albany was to Grand Central. as far as I know everything that has used the Empire Connection terminated in Penn Station.

  • Just hear from Midwest HSR Association that VP Biden announced $53B/6 year proposal for HSR. Don’t see it on the USDOT website yet. Any truth?

    • orulz

      Seems to be carried by many major news outlets so it appears to be legit. Calls for $8 billion in 2012. This would be great news.

      What are the odds that this will find its way into any budget passed in the house? I’d peg it at about a snowball’s chance in hell.

      But if it IS passed, first I’d like to see it require a 20% match (to separate the wheat from the chaff.) Next, Amtrak should be allowed to use its own capital budget as the 20% match. Then, probably half of the money should go towards the NEC: Baltimore tunnels, NYC “Gateway” project, constant tension catenary, bridge replacements, grade separations.

    • AlanF

      Yes, the White House proposed $53 billion for HSR and intercity passenger rail for the next 6 year transportation bill. The WH press release: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/02/08/vice-president-biden-announces-six-year-plan-build-national-high-speed-r.

      The administration will be asking for $8 billion for FY2012 broken down into 2 parts: “For the first time, all high speed and intercity passenger rail programs will be consolidated into two new accounts: a $4 billion account for network development, focused on building new infrastructure, stations, and equipment; and a $4 billion account for system preservation and renewal, which will maintain state of good repair on Amtrak and other publicly-owned assets, bring stations into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and provide temporary operating support to crucial state corridors while the full system is being built and developed.”

      That comes out a day after the Gateway project proposal can’t be an accident. The administration is doing a big infrastructure push this week.

      • Ocean Railroader

        Two billion dollars would at least be enough to take care of a great chunk of Vrginia’s rail system plans and they could put a billion of that into the NEC north of Washingtion DC to start up dating the catenary which should give a big bang for the buck.

  • Matt

    Maybe I’m crazy, but would it ever be smart to through-route PATH trains from 33rd street over to GCT to Metro North? then through route NJT and LIRR via Penn and GCT. 100 years from now?

    • It’s impossible to extend PATH that way. It’s hemmed on all sides by the BDFM trains – ahead, on the sides, and from below.

      But sure, NJT/LIRR/Metro-North through-routing is smart and advisable.

  • The skinny says Obama-Biden want the $53B/6 years split in half: new starts and maintenance/enhancement with 20% state & local match ($11B).

    As long as Obama agrees to keep Highway funding at $42B/year and Aviation funding at $16B/year, enough Repubs might agree. Furthermore,to get $12B for Bakersfield-Palmdale-Sylmar and Fresno-Gilroy segments, California would gladly kick in $3B.

    Based on that dream scenario to produce $53B + $11B = $64B total funding, this roster of projects could generate meaningful results that stimulate broader HSR support and garner support from Mica happy:

    $22B Boston-New Haven-NYC-Philly-Baltimore-DC-Richmond-Raleigh-Charlotte
    $15B California
    $ 8B Florida (Orlando-Miami)
    $ 8B Illinois (Milwaukee-Chicago-St. Louis)
    $11B Emerging HSR projects elsewhere

    • Andrew

      Why didn’t Obama come up with these reasonable numbers back when he took office?

      • AlanF

        Because it has taken several years to get a handle on the costs, plans, and assess where the states are with the studies & plans they have? And for the FRA and DOT to come up with something resembling a national rail plan? Putting together this stuff takes time. After 2 years, several rounds of submitted applications, and staffing up at the FRA and DOT, they may now have a handle on what the viable near term projects that could be funded.

        Overall, I like the breakdown ThomasD has in his post. Four HSR corridors or connected HSR corridors and enough money to improve passenger rail in the other corridors and the rest of the country.

  • Brandi

    It’s good that the conversation about a new cross-Hudson tunnel is starting already since it definitely is going to take 20 years for this thing to ever get built. Now that all the money has been diverted it will be a long time to new money can be allocated. Chris Christie is such a sham. He is already saying he is for this plan if New Jersey doesn’t have to put forth any money for it. He really just wants a free ride. The guy is totally about grandstanding and vote getting. He really doesn’t care about the region or its future. I wouldn’t expect any support to come out of him or Cuomo. Hopefully some extra federal money can come from the new HSR pot if it ever exists. It will be pretty hard just to get back up to the $3 billion New Jersey had. By the way what did the FTA do with the $3 billion New Jersey returned?

    • AlanF

      “By the way what did the FTA do with the $3 billion New Jersey returned?”
      Nothing so far that I have read about. New York city and the MTA made statements about using some of the $3 billion for the 2nd Ave subway and other NYC projects, as I recall. The $3 billion has presumably gone back into the New Start funding pot to be re-distributed to other transit projects. Just don’t expect that to happen quickly.

  • Michael Schaeffer

    If we managed to acquire MSG and force the Dolans to move their teams out to Brooklyn or the Meadowlands for a while, then how much would it cost to demolish the existing MSG and completely gut the existing track level of New York Penn and rebuild a new track level and temporary station similar to the PATH at WTC within the span of 3-4 months?

  • Michael Schaeffer

    Perhaps that 2.4 Billion that Florida rejected could go toward the Gateway Project, or rebuilding the Catenary from New York to Washington on the NEC, in order to make provisions for future 220 MPH HSR! Maybe canceling Florida’s HSR wasn’t that bad after all.

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