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Stopping a Runaway Train

Date : Mon, 13 Sep 2010 12:15:47 -0400

For Immediate Release
September 13, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Chapter Director, 609-558-9100

Stopping a Runaway Train

The Sierra Club is pleased that New Jersey Transit's Access to the Region's Core project (ARC) has been halted. This month long hold on the project is the right course of action. This multi-billion dollar tunnel is like a runaway train that's on track to go at least a billion dollars over budget.

This time out should be used to allow the different agencies responsible for our transit needs to get together and come up with a comprehensive transportation plan for the region that will actually work. This is important because Amtrak has decided to build its own tunnel due to the fact that the ARC tunnel does not meet any of its needs. The New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund is broke and no money is available for cost overruns. That should be incentive for New Jersey Transit to work with Amtrak to fit the ARC Tunnel in with the Amtrak Capital Plan.

The Sierra Cub thanks the Christie Administration for temporarily stopping this project. We believe this break will allow us to look at the real costs of the project, fix it so it better meets the needs of the people, and save taxpayers money.

"This time out is important for the transportation needs of the region because we can come up with a comprehensive transportation plan that works and that will save the taxpayers of New Jersey money," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

Originally, the ARC project was designed to serve several purposes. First, the plan was to create another tunnel into New York. There were other important goals, including providing New Jersey commuters access to the Grand Central Station and the East Side of Manhattan, creating a backup tunnel for Amtrak that would service Penn Station or the new Moynihan Station, and enabling trains to travel from one area of the metropolitan region to another.

"Currently, the different groups in charge of mass transit are acting like spoiled children each with their own set of choo choos," Tittel said. "There's NJ Transit, Amtrak, the Port Authority, New York City subways, Long Island Railroad, and Metro North. Reevaluating the tunnel could bring all the groups together so we can really develop a coordinated transportation system for the region."

The Sierra Club has opposed the project in its current form because it is poorly designed and does not meet the goal of making public transportation more accessible and functional. We have consistently said a cohesive transportation plan must be coordinated in order to make the ARC tunnel into New York an effective project.

"Unfortunately, this tunnel only meets the first of those goals and not the other four," Tittel said. "Instead of connecting to Penn Station or the new Moynihan Station, the tunnel dead ends 180 feet below the ground, two blocks from Penn Station. The project is now the tunnel to Macy's basement."

The Sierra Club believes this configuration will undermine good transportation planning for the region. Because it the tunnel is proposed to be so far under ground, it may deter people from using it and could be a risk in the event of an emergency.

As proposed, to get to ground level, passengers will have to travel the equivalent of 20 stories via a series of escalators that will be longer than two football fields. "This labyrinth of tunnels will be more reminiscent of a corn maze than a train station," Tittel said.

Besides the long travel time involved in getting to ground levels and the added risk during an emergency, the configuration as planned will be confusing for passengers. For example, NJ Transit will continue to use Penn Station in addition to the tunnel station. At rush hour, when there many trains are coming and departing, it will be confusing for passengers, who will have to determine if they are leaving from Penn Station or the ARC tunnel station two blocks away.

There are presently five major proposals for the expansion of train service in and out of Midtown Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg is working to extend the Seven Train, which will go right above this NJ Transit tunnel. The Long Island Railroad wants to provide access to the East Side. Sen. Chuck Schumer is pushing for the new Moynihan Station in Midtown. Congressman Jerry Nadler wants to establish a freight rail tunnel to displace traffic from the roads. Then there's this NJ Transit tunnel proposal. Each project is expecting, and actively seeking, federal dollars.

"The fact that all of these projects are within a few blocks of each other demonstrates the lack of collaboration that exists in improving the region's transportation. Instead of a cohesive plan, we have created a mishmash of disjointed ideas. Each organization is acting like a bunch of children who don't want the others to touch their train set," Tittel said.

We believe some of the options that should be considered to allow for East Side access would be to have a train station enabling passengers to connect with the Seven Train or to design the tunnel so the Seven Train goes right through out to Secaucus Junction. The tunnel should meet up with the Moynihan Station so as to allow through trains access.

"A coordinated plan is the first step to improving public transportation access," Tittel said. The Sierra Club is calling on Gov. Christie, Gov. David Patterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, senators Schumer, Lautenberg and Menendez, as well as Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, to sit down together and develop a comprehensive plan that constructively brings all of these projects together. The establishment of a regional transportation board, not five agencies that deal with transportation, should also be considered.

"We agree that a third rail tunnel is needed to improve access to the region's core but it must be done right. It took us 50 years to get to this point; we can't wait another 50 years for an effective solution," Tittel said.

  Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618  <>  

Received on 2010-09-13 09:15:47

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at

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