ELIZABETH, NJ – What would a partial shutdown of even one of the Hudson River Rail Tunnels look like?
According to Nat Bottigheimer, New Jersey Director for the Regional Plan Association (RPA), it would be a crisis.
Bottigheimer detailed the findings of the RPA to the Union County Freeholders in a presentation entitled “A Preventable Crisis” Thursday. The subject of the presentation was, in his words, “a conservative look” at what shutting down even one of the two Hudson River tunnels would do to the economy.
One of the factors contributing to the need for a tunnel shutdown is the age of the systems. Most of the tunnels built into New York are from the 1910s and as a result, are aging rapidly. In addition, Superstorm Sandy added additional wear to the electrical equipment and structures when it made landfall in 2012.
Even shutting down one of the two tunnels would be an issue, according to Bottigheimer. With one tunnel down each day, the peak capacity of trains per hour drops from 24 to six, a three-quarter reduction.
“What’s important is that we take care of this small problem, so we avoid a much bigger problem later,” Bottigheimer said.
In the event of even a partial tunnel shutdown, some 38,000 riders would be displaced, according to RPA calculations. The displacement of those riders would result in a variety of negative impacts on the local economy, commute and property values.
Speaking with TAPinto after the presentation, Bottigheimer noted that having the Gateway Tunnel in operation would be a major boon to the transit system but with the project stalled, the region and the county are faced with a choice.
“We’re faced with the question: Do we wait to get federal funding to make progress and run the risk that’s growing every year that we’ll have a catastrophic closure?” he said. “Or do we do the thing that’s more expensive for ourselves … and then hope that we can convince the federal government to repay us later?”
In a news release, Union County Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski cited the RPA report and said it is essential for one-seat rides that the Gateway Tunnels Project move forward.
“Union County is a rail hub, and the stakes of not investing in train service improvements are high,” Kowalski said. “If the tunnels fail, Union County could suffer as much as a $1.8 billion revenue loss.”
“As elected officials, it is urgent that we make our voices heard for supporting the Gateway Tunnels Project and continue to work with organizations such as the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition and the Regional Plan Association toward that end,” she added.