(Below is a letter to The Honorable Peter M. Rogoff, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration , from the National Association of Rail Pasengers. The letter was co-signed by several other organizations interested in rail passenger service.)
Thank you for meeting
with Albert Papp, George Haikalis and Sean Jeans-Gail on August 21 to discuss
the defects of New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) new design for the Mass Transit
Tunnel (formerly the Access to the Region’s Core) project.
This project has the
potential to promote economic development and job creation throughout the
Northeast for the next century. However, if the project goes forward as now
planned, it will probably go down as one of the greatest wastes of taxpayer
money in history – because of what this $10.4-billion project should have
delivered but didn’t.
In its decision to
eliminate the connection at Penn Station, NJT has put the entire region at
risk. NJT’s revised project has:
• Gambled that the two
existing tunnels – engineered and constructed more than a century ago – will last
for another century. That is far from certain. It is certain that a
catastrophic failure of either tunnel would inflict incalculable damage on the
Northeast and the nation.
• Made significant
expansion of regional, intercity and high speed services along the Northeast
Corridor enormously – and needlessly – more expensive.
• Reduced the value of
the new tunnels even to its own customers. They will not double trans-Hudson
capacity as one would expect because they dead end at a limited capacity
station, buried 175 feet below 34th Street that lacks convenient connectivity
with other regional services.
For these three reasons
alone, the NJT plan is irresponsible at its core and offers a case study as to
why deference to the "locally preferred alternative" does not serve the public
There is still time for
the Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration and the
Federal Railroad Administration to correct these mistakes without delaying
completion or increasing costs:
• Establish "through running"
of regional trains to increase capacity at Penn Station quickly;
• Restore the connection
to Penn Station;
• Eliminate the deep
cavern station under 34th Street and the construction of a deep shaft on the
Manhattan side scheduled to begin in January 2010, saving $3 billion;
• Invest some of those
savings to provide additional tracks and platforms at Penn Station;
• Accelerate the hard
rock tunnels under the Palisades in New Jersey and the soft rock tunnels under
the Hudson River;
• Change the profile of
the tunnels under the river to meet the requirements of the "cut and cover"
connection to Penn Station (this change would not delay the start of the soft
rock tunnel construction, which begins at the New Jersey waterfront).
The U.S. Department of
Transportation is in an excellent position to facilitate increased interstate
cooperation by funding a demonstration project that would jump start a "through
running" service plan at Penn Station. Further USDOT could lead in the effort
to restart planning for the long sought connection between Penn Station and
Grand Central that was developed and analyzed in the 2003 ARC Major Investment
Completing the planning
and design of this link – the most important rail station connection in the
nation – could be finalized in as little as two years. In fewer than the eight
years it would take to complete NJT’s dead-end "deep cavern" terminal, a much
more useful, game-changing regional rail plan could become fully operational.
This result would be a credit to the foresight of the Obama Administration.
George Chilson , NARP
of the Board
Ross Capon, NARP