On Monday 7th February, US Senetors Lautenberg and Merendez joined the President and CEO of Amtrak, Joseph Boardman to announce that Amtrak is proposing to spend $50m to begin preliminary engineering and design on two new rail tunnels. The plan is for these to stretch from New Jersey to New York City.
These new tunnels would significantly increase commuter train capacity by allowing NJ Transit to add an additional 13 trains per hour into New York City. It would also increase the number of Amtrak trains going into the city by 8 per hour.
Senator Lautenberg stated: ” New Jersey is facing a transportation crisis. Our commuters are fed up with train delays that make them late for work and endless traffic jams. When the ARC Tunnel project was cancelled, it was clear that we couldn’t just throw up our hands and wait years to find another solution. Amtrak is spearheading a project that will help NJ commuters and also expand intercity and high speed rail on the Northeast Corridor. The Gateway Project is a vision for our future that will shorten commutes, create jobs, increase property values and will be beneficial for New Jersey’s economy.”
Amtrak’s CEO added that the project is “essential for future growth and economic development.” He also said that the project is a “critical step that we can now take to bring 220mph Amtrak high speed service to the Northeast Corridor.”
Increased traffic and congestion into midtown Manhattan threatens the economy of northern New Jersey and New York City. The existing 100-year old rail tunnels into midtown Manhattan are already operating at capacity during rush hour, and ridership is expected to double in the next two decades.
To address these immediate concerns following the cancellation of the ARC Tunnel project and with the encouragement of Senator Lautenberg, Amtrak expedited its plans to build new rail tunnels. They are now moving forward with the Gateway Project to increase the number of trains into and out of New York. The project will also expand intercity and high-speed rail access, providing world-class, high-speed rail service on the Northeast Corridor.
The Gateway Project is expected to increase NJ Transit commuter rail capacity into New York by 65 percent (increase from 20 to 33 trains per hour during peak hours). The new tunnels will connect to the new Moynihan station as well as to a new Penn Station South that is connected to the existing New York Penn station, which has reached its capacity.
Amtrak’s plan also includes a total replacement and expansion of the 100 year-old Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus. There would also be significant infrastructure improvements in New Jersey including expanding track capacity from what is essentially a two-track railroad to an operationally superior four track configuration between Newark and New York Penn Stations.
Amtrak projects that the entire Gateway Tunnel project could be completed in 2020 at an estimated cost of $13.5 billion. Amtrak will take a lead in finding ways to pay the cost and will look for contributions from local, regional and state governments including New Jersey, New York State, New York City, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.