- Access to the Region's Core
Trans-Hudson Express ARC Tunnel Overview Location Hudson Palisades/Hudson River Coordinates Coordinates: Status Canceled as of October 2010 System New Jersey Transit Start North Bergen, New Jersey End New York City Operation Work begun June 2009 Operator New Jersey Transit Traffic Train Character Passenger Technical No. of tracks 2 single-track tubes Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) Standard gauge Electrified 12 kV overhead catenary Lowest elevation 100 ft (30 m) below river level Tunnel clearance 24.5 ft (7.5 m) Grade 0.3 – 0.8%
Access to the Region's Core (ARC) was a commuter rail project to increase passenger service capacity on New Jersey Transit (NJT) from Secaucus Junction in New Jersey to Manhattan in New York City. New infrastructure would have included new trackage, a new rail yard, and a tunnel under the Hudson River. A new station adjacent to New York Penn Station was to be constructed as running more trains into the current station was deemed unfeasible. An estimated budget for the project was $8.7 billion. Construction began in mid-2009 and the project was slated for completion in 2018, but it was cancelled in October 2010 by Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, citing the possibility of cost overruns and the state's lack of funds. $600 million had been spent on the project.
The project was initiated after studies conducted in the 1990s determined that new rail tunnels under the Hudson River were the best approach address transportation needs for the New York metropolitan area. At times called the Trans Hudson Express Tunnel (THE Tunnel) or the Mass Transit Tunnel, it eventually became known by the name of a Major Investment Study, and received endorsements from both New Jersey and New York governors. It was colloquially dubbed the tunnel to Macy's basement, in reference to its terminus under 34th Street (Manhattan).
After its cancellation, the federal government demanded repayment of funding received by NJT for the project. The Christie administration engaged a law firm to present its arguments for non-payment which were subsequently rejected by the Federal Transit Administration. An agreement was eventually reached in which part of the funds would be returned while other monies would be used on transit-related projects.
Soon after work was halted there was speculation that the previously discussed idea of New York Transit Authority's 7 Subway Extension continuing into New Jersey would be revived, and in February 2011 the New York City Economic Development Corporation budgeted funds for a feasibilty study. Also in February 2011, Amtrak announced its intention to build a right of way and tunnel called the Gateway Project from Newark Penn Station to New York Penn Station, passing through Secaucus Junction, which would allow for usage by some New Jersey Transit trains.
The project would have more than doubled the number of trains from New Jersey to Midtown Manhattan, providing direct, one-seat service from most of New Jersey Transit's rail lines, as well as more frequent service to in-state destinations. The improvement would have included the construction of two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River as a supplement to the North River Tunnels, which operate at 100% capacity. The new tunnels would have connected to a six-track, state-of-the-art expansion of Penn Station under 34th Street with pedestrian connections to the existing station and New York City Transit's Eighth, Seventh, Sixth Avenue, and Broadway subway lines. Also planned were a new rail loop near the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Station allowing Main Line/Bergen County Line and Pascack Valley Line trains direct service to Midtown, and a new mid-day rail storage yard in the Kearny Meadows. While the terminal station would have dead-ended trains, there was hope that it would one day be extended eastward depending on future funding.
Cost and funding
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) projected the cost for ARC as $8.7 billion in their 2009 Annual Report on Funding Recommendations for the New Starts Program, which identified the funding for the project as follows.
- Federal New Starts = $3.0 billion
- Federal American Recovery & Reinvestment Act = $0.130 billion
- Federal Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program & Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) = $1.320 billion
- Port Authority of New York and New Jersey = $3.0 billion
- New Jersey Turnpike Authority = $1.250 billion
Projections rose to close to $11 billion by the time of the cancellation of New Jersey's funding of the project It is estimated that $610 million has been spent on the project. Before being terminated, the Port Authority has purchased, or otherwise acquired rights or leased land on Manhattan's West side. About $250 million was spent on studies and design. Condemnation procedures initiated by the state for properties along the route in Hudson County were left pending at various stages after the cancellation.
In September 2011, the Turnpike Authority voted to spend the funds committed to the project on roads within the state.
In 1995, the ARC project began with the initiation of the Access to the Region's Core Major Investment Study (MIS) in which an initial list of 137 alternatives was identified, including bus, light rail, subway, Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail, commuter rail, ferry, new technologies, and auto. This Major Investment Study was completed in 2003, and recommended two alternatives for advancement into a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Alternative P would create new tracks and platforms under the existing Penn Station. Alternative S would create a new rail link to existing Penn Station as well as new East River Tunnels to expanded rail storage facilities at Sunnyside Yard. Alternative G would have provided a link to Grand Central Terminal, but that alternative was not recommended for further advancement.
The environmental review stage lasted from 2003 to 2009. In June 2003, NJ Transit Board of Directors awarded a $4.9 million contract to Transit Link, a joint venture of Parsons Brinckerhoff and Systra Engineering, to produce a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project.
In the very early stages of the project, there were plans for track connections from the new tunnels to existing Penn Station, the Penn Station Connector, which would have provided NJ Transit and Amtrak with the operational flexibility to use either the existing rail tunnels or the new ARC tunnels. In order to achieve a less than two percent grade from the low point in the tunnel under the river to Penn Station, the Penn Station Connector would have to diverge from the new ARC tunnels somewhere under the Hudson River. This would have required approval by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Coast Guard to allow construction of a very large, expensive coffer dam mid-river. Regulatory approvals seemed unlikely; construction of the coffer dam would have disrupted the contaminated river bottom which was previously declared a Superfund site  and would have obstructed busy river shipping channels. In addition to Hudson River impacts, the Penn Station Connector would have required excavation of a wide trench across Manhattan's West Side. Known as cut and cover tunneling construction, this wide trench would have displaced many businesses and residents and required unlikely support from the Hudson River Park Trust, Community Boards, and other stakeholder organizations.
After the initial engineering and expert peer review in 2006 and 2007, NJ Transit determined that moving the station deeper and using modern tunnel boring techniques was the only way to avoid environmental, community, and engineering concerns. The agency opted to construct a underground terminal, which later became a source of controversy.
Design and construction management contracts were awarded respectively to THE Partnership, a joint venture of Parsons Brinckerhoff, STV, and DMJM Harris/AECOM, and CM Consortium, a joint venture of Tishman, Parsons Corp. and ARUP, both in 2006.
In July 2006, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced its decision to allow preliminary engineering to begin on the new trans-Hudson rail tunnel. Supporters called the FTA's announcement a positive sign that the federal government eventually intended to commit funding to the project. The FTA approved the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project in January 2007, and the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) in March 2008. The SDEIS identified and evaluated the environmental impacts of a deeper profile tunnel with no track connections to existing Penn Station. These changes to the project scope were necessitated by a significant number of environmental, community, and engineering concerns regarding construction of the previous shallow tunnel and station. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was approved in October 2008. In January 2009, the FTA issued the Record of Decision for the project and approved the start of final design.
Beginning of construction
The first construction contract was awarded to construct a new railroad underpass at Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen in June 2009, and the project's groundbreaking was held on June 8, 2009. The Palisades Tunnels construction contract, the first major tunneling contract for the project was awarded on May 5, 2010.
At the time of cancellation, construction was already underway on the Tonnelle Avenue Underpass and the Palisades Tunnels, one of three tunnel segments in the project, the construction contract for the Manhattan Tunnels was pending award to Barnard-Judlau JV and the Hudson River Tunnels, the third and final tunnel construction contract, was in the procurement phase.
Governor Christie endorsed the project in April 2010, but his support for the project was later called into question. On September 10, 2010, with final design and construction on the first two contracts was already underway, NJ Transit's executive director, James Weinstein, ordered work on the tunnel to be suspended for 30 days for a 30-day risk review of the project's cost and schedule, because of concerns that the project would go $1 billion over budget and the State of New Jersey couldn't afford to pay. News reports mentioned the possibility that Governor Christie's administration was considering scrapping the project to use the project's funding to replenish New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund, however New Jersey's Transportation Commissioner James S. Simpson denied that the Administration ever contemplated such a possibility.
On October 7, 2010, New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced that the ARC Tunnel project was officially cancelled, citing rising costs and concerns over New Jersey residents fronting the bill for the estimated $15 billion project. The next day the governor agreed to a two-week reprieve, so that additional options for funding the tunnel could be developed. Christie did briefly reconsider, reviewing options in discussions with US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, but made a final decision to terminate the project on October 27, 2010.
Funding repayment controversy
The cancellation forfeited federal funding for the project, and put into question the use of Port Authority money. In November 2010 US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood agreed to an arrangement proposed by New Jersey's congressional delegation in which the state would return $271 million already received for the project and the DOT would in turn put $128 million into the state’s Congestion Mitigation Air Quality account to be used on future projects. The Christie administration did not accept the offer.
The federal government then demanded total repayment by New Jersey of federal grants, as stipulated under federal law. The Christie administration has refused to repay and is involved in legal proceedings to avoid doing so. The Federal Transit Administration requested that the state repay $271,101,291 by December 24, 2010. New Jersey hired the Washington, D.C. law firm Patton Boggs to argue against the repayment. As of April 2011, Patton Boggs had billed the state $803,000 in legal fees. In a letter to New Jersey U.S. senators and congresssional representatives, Secretary LaHood wrote that the state was liable for the money, and that non-payment could result in the withholding of federal funding for other projects.
On April 29, 2011, a Federal Transit Administration ruling rejected New Jersey's arguments on the repayment of the funds. The debt carries an interest rate of 1% per year, and began to accrue on that date at a rate of approximately $225,000 per month. Christie vowed that he would contest in the decision in court.
In September 2011, FTA and NJT reached a deal whereby $95 million would be paid back. The agreement waived $2.7 million in penalities and interest and stipulated that $128 million would be spent on DOT-approved transit-related projects.
New York City Subway extension
On November 16, 2010, The New York Times reported that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration was working on a plan in lieu of the ARC tunnel, to bring the 7 train service of the New York City Subway to Secaucus Junction. This revived previous discussions about the possible extension which were not pursued given New Jerseyeans presumed preference for a "one seat ride" into Manhattan. An extension of that service, from its current terminus at Times Square – 42nd Street to a station at 11th Avenue and 34th Street (Manhattan) began in 2007. The planned new station is near the Javits Center, one block from the Hudson River.
If built, the extension would take the New York City Subway outside the city's borders for the first time. It would offer a direct rail access from New Jersey to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and Queens as well as connections with most other subway routes.
A subway extension would cost less than the ARC tunnel, as its eastern end would be the planned 7 train station at Eleventh Avenue, avoiding the expensive tunnel boring work east to Herald Square. Travel times into Manhattan could be longer than under the original ARC proposal, because riders would need to transfer to the subway from New Jersey Transit trains at Secaucus. On the other hand, riders would gain direct access to Grand Central Terminal on the east side of Manhattan. This was one of the original key goals of the ARC project that the final ARC proposal didn't satisfy. The 7 route might not have the same capacity as the ARC tunnel, as trains would not be arriving at a terminal station with multiple platforms. Bloomberg had not discussed the project with either New York Governor Andrew Cuomo or Christie, and it would not automatically receive the federal funds allotted to the ARC tunnel. Christie stated that he would be open to the discussion.
On February 2, 2011 the city's Economic Development Corporation voted to budget up to $250,000 for a feasibility study of a tunnel for the subway line extension awarded to Parsons Brinckerhoff, a major engineering firm that was working on the ARC tunnel.
In February 2011 Amtrak announced its intention to build a small segment of a high speed rail corridor called the Gateway Project to also be used by New Jersey Transit. While Amtrak acknowledged that the region represented a bottleneck in the national system, its timetable for beginning the project was advanced in part due to ARC's cancellation. The project is similar in scope, but passengers travelling from Bergen, Passaic, Rockland, and Orange counties will still require a transfer at Secaucus Junction. Rather than a deep cavern station, a new southern terminal annex, considered more integral to an expanded New York Penn Station complex, will be built. A track from the new tunnel will also connect to the existing Penn Station, allowing for use by Amtrak's Northeast Corridor through-service trains. The proposed project is expected to take ten years to complete and is estimated to cost $13.5 billion, though no funding was identified at the time of the plan's announcement.
- Florida high speed rail
- List of ferries across the Hudson River in New York City
- List of fixed crossings of the Hudson River (bridges and tunnels)
Sources and notes
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- ^ 200 ft (61 m) average depth in Palisades portion
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- ARCTunnel.com Official website
- N.J. Governor Christie reconsiders canceling tunnel project 10/10/2010 News story
New Jersey Transit Rail Operations Hoboken Division Newark Division Proposed Connections Other information
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