NEWARK, NJ – With outright support from Senator Cory Booker, the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, Forward NJ, Regional Plan Association RPA, and New Jersey Alliance for Action presented evidence to kickstart a new two-track Trans-Hudson rail line during the Economics of Gateway forum on Friday.
The request for a new two-track tunnel comes in response to the increased traffic and deteriorating infrastructure that exists currently underneath the Hudson River.
The high demand of passengers may be due to New York City 552,000 new jobs since 2004, and the loss of 37,00 in New Jersey according to Dr. James Hughes, Dean of Bloustein School at Rutgers,
See RPA’s video explaining the predicament:
Senator Booker has been on the forefront of the plan’s outreach, having lobbied the railway-project to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
On Friday, Booker stressed the importance of the “choke points” that lie under the Hudson River, as they play an important role in the Northeast Corridor spanning from Washington to Boston.
“This is the busiest rail system in the Western Hemisphere, failures would back up the entire region,” he said. “Of all the infrastructural developments in the country, this is No. 1.”
On the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall in New Jersey, members of the forum continually pointed toward the superstorm’s damage to the 100-year-old tunnel walls, which have begun to corrode.
Philip K. Beachem, President of the New Jersey Alliance for Action, recounted a trip he had taken from Newark Penn to Manhattan with the engineer and being in awe when seeing the tunnel’s horrible conditions.
“People should see that view. The average person in the back of the train has no idea what they are riding through,” Beachem said.
The century-old underground railways are resulting in New Jersey to fall in infrastructure rankings across the board, as noted by Tom Bracken, President & CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
“The issue of economic viability is extremely important,” Bracken said. “We are dropping like a rock from a competitive standpoint because our infrastructure which used to be one our strengths, is no longer. The proximity to New York’s financial district and arts & cultural community is a strength, but if something happens to that tunnel we are going to have a problem. Calamity squared.”
The Gateway plan is essentially the third part of a regional plan proposed in 1996 that called for east side access to bring the LIRR to Grand Central station along with other improvements according to Tom Wright, president of RPA. Opening two new lines of transportation between New York and New Jersey will allow for the antiquated lines to be renovated and handle the ever-increasing passenger demand.
Cathleen Lewis, Public Affairs & Government Relations Director for AAA New Jersey, shared the effects that sudden train closures will have on everyday highway commuters.
“For every person who chooses mass transit over their car, that is one less car on the road causing congestion,” she said. “Our bridges and tunnels were built 100 years ago, we’d be lucky if they were built 50 years ago. We cannot rely on these deteriorating visions of the future. We cannot wait for it to be someone else’s problem anymore.
Urgency was stressed to get the estimated $20 billion project off its feet, as it will take 12-15 years to complete.
“Our real challenge is affordability because we’re a winner. Lots of people want to live, work, and play in our region,” Seth Pinsky, Executive Vice President or RXR Realty said. “We do need to have an honest discussion about the cost and time, as it costs about $368 million to build a mile of subway in Paris, and $2 billion in New York.”
To learn more about the Gateway/Trans-Hudson project, visit