Amtrak Says New York Region’s Rail Projects Could Cost Up to $23.9 Billion

Amtrak officials on Wednesday provided the most detailed public account yet for the projected costs of building a new Hudson River rail tunnel and improving other critical parts of the rail infrastructure in the New York region.

The project, known as the Gateway program, has been championed by Anthony Foxx, the federal transportation secretary, who on Wednesday visited the deteriorating rail tunnel that runs between New York and New Jersey.

In a presentation to Mr. Foxx, Amtrak officials said the entire project could cost as much as $23.9 billion, with the largest share of about $7.7 billion going toward building the new Hudson tunnel and repairing the existing tunnel. The project includes a host of other elements, including expanding Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan at an estimated cost of $5.9 billion, and replacing rail bridges in New Jersey.

The project gained momentum last year after Mr. Foxx raised concerns about the existing century-old tunnel, which has two tubes and needs repairs because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. After a contentious debate over how to pay for the tunnel project, federal and state officials agreed to split the costs and to create a corporation within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to oversee the plans.

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Anthony Foxx, the U.S. secretary of transportation, has pushed for a new Hudson tunnel. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

After Mr. Foxx toured the tunnel on Wednesday, he said he would continue to advance the plans during the final year of the Obama administration.

“I’d like to have a financing package that is solid enough by the time we walk out of the door that everyone has the certainty that the project will happen, and the funding set aside to get it done,” he said.

Seated at the front of a special train car with panoramic windows, Mr. Foxx examined the tunnel’s crumbling bench walls and the line where floodwaters rose during the storm. A top Amtrak official, Stephen Gardner, stood nearby outlining the scope of the Gateway program and rough estimates for the cost and timeline for the plans.

Amtrak officials have been reluctant to provide specific figures for the cost of the project while they are still in the early stages of planning. On Wednesday, they cautioned that the numbers were preliminary estimates, and the real costs would be determined after conducting engineering work and an environmental plan and considering available financing.

The expansion of Penn Station, by adding tracks to the south, could start in 2024 and be completed by 2030, according to the presentation. Work to replace the Portal Bridge in New Jersey, an old swing bridge that often causes delays, could start next year. There was no timeline provided for the Hudson tunnel project, but Amtrak officials have said that work could take about a decade.

On Wednesday, when Mr. Foxx asked whether the existing tunnel was safe, Amtrak officials said that it was structurally safe, but that service was becoming less reliable. Amtrak’s chairman, Anthony Coscia, and its chief executive, Joseph Boardman, attended the tour, along with Sarah Feinberg, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration.

After a series of bad train delays at the Hudson tunnel last summer, Mr. Foxx helped jump-start long-stalled plans to build a new tunnel under the river. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican who is running for president, canceled an earlier tunnel project in 2010.

This month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, announced a new effort to renovate Penn Station and to turn the James A. Farley Post Office across the street into a train station and waiting room. But questions remain over how to pay for that project’s $3 billion cost and the governor’s other transportation proposals for the region.

After the tour, Mr. Foxx praised Mr. Cuomo’s big infrastructure plans for the state, but he said officials must remain “laser-focused on fixing what is broken under the Hudson River.”

Lessening ‘Overburdened’ Subway Could Help Reduce Slashings, Officials Say

CIVIC CENTER — A recent spike in subway slashings were in part due to an overcrowded subway system that leads to tempers flaring after people jostle each other, officials said Wednesday.

Felony assaults were up 18 percent in January, including 10 slashings and stabbings in January, compared with 2015, while major crime was down nearly 6 percent, according to NYPD crime numbers. And one way to address that issue would be to expand service on a system that sees about six million riders a day.

“Tempers are short when you can’t get on a subway car that is overcrowded, that on the subway car somebody inadvertently with a backpack swings around and ends up striking you,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said during the press conference at NYPD headquarters.

“It is overburdened, the MTA, everybody recognizes that.”

The commissioner said efforts to expand the Second Avenue Subway Line and buy new subway cars could help reduce tensions.

“The new trains they are looking at buying, as you saw the other day, was not separated between cars and that will increase capacity by 10 to 20 percent, which will also facilitate people moving from one end of the car to the other, will be very helpful to us patrolling in the sense of not having 10 isolated cars on the subway.”

Police will also take immediate steps to reduce the violence, including increasing the number of officers in the subway system.

“What you are going to be seeing over the next couple of weeks is additional uniforms down in the subway,” said NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill.

Bratton also recently recommended banning repeat subway criminals from the system.

Apart from the additional service and officers, the commissioner recommenced riders not take naps during their ride.

“We believe almost 50 percent of the reported crime in the subway involves sleeping passengers,” Bratton said. “I remember 1967 in Vietnam listening to a favorite performer of that era, Petula Clark, had a very significant hit song, ‘Don’t Sleep in the Subways, Darling.’”

An MTA spokesman said that subway crimes are still remain extremely rare.

“The NYPD has done an incredible job of keeping crimes in check even while ridership rises, which is why the risk of being the victim of a felony on the subway is roughly one in a million,” said spokesman Adam Lisberg in an email.

In the most recent attack, a 30-year-old man was slashed on a 3 train Monday by a man who was pacing back and forth on the Pennsylvania Avenue station platform before the attack.

Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized that incidents like the 3 train attack were isolated and the subways were still safe.

“These are individual incidents, it’s not a pattern, and thank God it’s not a pattern,” de Blasio said.

Subway Stations That You MUST Visit

This stop near the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens looks more like an Italian villa than a subway station. (Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

When commuters walk into the white stucco building with its red terra cotta-tiled roof, two four-story towers, courtyard and balconies, it can be hard to believe they are in a Bronx subway station.

Yes, the East 180th Street station, near the New York Botanical Garden, was designed to look like an Italian villa.

It’s one of many stops in the system that are destinations in and of themselves — attractions worth visiting for everything from a glass oculus with a 53-foot diameter, a column-free platform, impeccable views of New York Harbor and some of the best art work around.

These are some stations worth visiting whether you’ve got a train to catch or not:

SubwayStationsFultonCenter

The new Fulton Center opened in November 2014, meant to unify five different subway stations with nine lines into one complex.

The main draw is a glass oculus, with a 53-foot diameter, atop an atrium. The station is built in a steel and glass shell, has almost one thousand aluminum panels to capture daylight throughout the year and reflect sunlight deep into the station. The French Gothic-style Corbin Building on John Street was also restored.

About 300,000 riders on weekdays use the new stop — and many take pictures, posting them on social media sites like Instagram.

“It’s a destination,” said Sandra Bloodworth, who is the director of MTA Arts & Design. “They come a lot to just experience the oculus.”

The MTA also launched its Digital Arts Program on 52 screens when the new Fulton Center opened.

“It’s a different experience than mosaics, title,” Bloodworth said of the digital art installations. “It’s meant to capture a moment.”

The current display, an animation called “The Blowing Bowler,” features a man chasing after a bowler hat in the subway while cars from different decades roll past.

(Credit: MTA)

SubwayStations34thStreetHudsonYards

The stainless-steel tiled station on the Far West Side became the first new stop on the MTA’s map in 26 years when it opened in September, extending the No. 7 train by a mile and a half.

The previous new stops were three that opened in 1989, such as the Roosevelt Island and Lexington Avenue-63rd Street stations.

The Hudson Yards stop includes a wide-open platform, free of any columns, and climate control that keeps temperatures in the seventies year-round. The stop also has the highest and longest escalators in the subway system — not for passengers who are of the faint of heart, giving a dizzying feeling when they descend the 125 feet down to the station platform.

The funk-inspired artwork by Xenobia Bailey gives subway riders a sense of the cosmos, with almost 3,000 square feet of starburst-rich mosaic tile art.

Originally designed in crochet, it includes rays of color bands and mandala-like circles for riders to take in. “Their eyes are traveling left to right, looking at this gigantic, colorful, interesting mosaic that has a cosmic feel to it,” said Bloodworth. (Credit: Rob Wilson)

SubwayStationsmith9th

The Red Hook stop is the highest subway station in the world, built at almost 9 stories tall and nearly 88 feet so that boats with tall masts sailing through the Gowanus Canal can clear the stop.

“Smith-9th Street is very unique,” said transit enthusiast Max Diamond. “It’s the highest station in the system, and offers some amazing views of the New York City skyline.”

Visitors can see the Statue of Liberty, as well as vistas of the Manhattan and Brooklyn downtowns.

The stop also has a 14-foot blue mosaic of a nautical map by a Red Hook artist, illustrating the neighborhood’s history. The work at the station by Alyson Shotz includes 26 windows with silver reflective ink in the glass, each with a different historical nautical map from the 1700s to the 1900s of the local waterfront.

“She has these prismatic maps, that reflect this waterfront history,” said Bloodworth. “She really uses the windows to bring light in.”

(Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

SubwayStationsTimesSquqreMost New Yorkers don’t want to go near the packed Times Square subway station, but it’s worth visiting for tourists if they want to get a good glimpse of what rush-hour is like in New York City. The complex has eleven different lines and is used by 65.9 million people a year. Station performers also seem to be at a higher notch there than other stops, with four performance locations that are organized by MTA Arts & Design. Annual auditions are held each year at Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall. (Credit: Linda Rosier)

SubwayStationsOldCityHall

The former City Hall station, decommissioned in 1945, includes wrought iron skylights, tile-arched ceiling, stained glass and brass chandeliers. It was also home to the first subway station in New York City in 1904. Riders can catch a glimpse if they stay on the No. 6 train as it turns around, or take a full tour with the New York Transit Museum.

“The City Hall station was the heart of the city, the seat of the station, the dock, in 1904,” said Bloodworth. She noted that there was a conscious decision made to include high-quality amenities to attract people to use the subway, and that art was included from the beginning “with an eye to its beauty, as well as to its efficiency” in the transit system.

“City Hall station is by far the most beautiful station in the subway,” said Diamond. “It’s elegant, arched terra-cotta tile harkens back to the turn of the 20th-century, when the city was willing to build in a way that was big and impressive.”

(Credit: Scout Tufankjian)

SubwayStationsAstorPlaceThe East Village’s Astor Place, like the old City Hall stop, is one of the first 28 subway stations. It includes ceramic plaques of beavers to honor John Jacob Astor, who created a fur trading empire before he began smuggling opium and bought a stretch of Manhattan that includes what is now Astor Place as well as part of Lafayette Street.. The station also features porcelain panels in colorful geometric patterns by graphic designer Milton Glaser, who created the I ♥ New York logo. (Credit: Nalea J. Ko)

Yes, there are more. But let’s do this: Tell me your favorite and I will write up a great story about it.

Experts: Cash infusion will help NYC transit but still leave it lagging behind

NEW YORK — A $29 billion infusion into the city’s transportation network likely will still leave the nation’s largest regional transportation network lagging behind modern systems across the globe but will provide repairs and upgrades needed to keep pace with booming ridership, transit experts said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority‘s five-year modernization plan now has funding for scores of improvements, including more than 1,000 new subway cars, more real-time countdown clocks, better signals that lead to faster service and more than 80 miles of track repair, including some to rails damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

But many transportation experts argue that the capital spending program is mostly a maintenance plan rather than a blueprint for a robust transportation system for a 21st century global city.

“We’re not investing enough in our region’s infrastructure,” said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an advocacy group dedicated to reducing car dependency in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “In the tri-state region, we have $400 billion in infrastructure needs.”

She noted the money isn’t a cure-all, but “stops the hemorrhaging of a system that without this investment would see continued deterioration.”

The city’s growth and success has always been linked to transportation infrastructure — from its position beside New York Harbor to the Erie Canal to the subway system, according to Lucius Riccio, a former city transportation commissioner who’s now a senior lecturer at Columbia University and New York University. He said the region should be building a new subway line each decade and adding new passenger and freight rail tunnels under the Hudson River.

“Other cities — Shanghai, London — these cities are growing, and we’ll be limited,” he said in an interview before the deal was completed. “If you think of what people did 100 years ago in building the subways and great bridges, with limited construction and power capabilities, why can’t we build this? What is holding us back except for political will?”

The biggest reason is money. The federal government has cut back on infrastructure investment and has yet to commit to paying for a portion of an ambitious $20 billion plan floated by Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to build two Hudson River tunnels, new bridges and an expanded New York Penn Station.

Local leaders have had to find ways to bankroll the projects, and that led to a months-long feud between Cuomo and Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio over the MTA capital plan.

Cuomo initially asked the city to contribute $3.2 billion to what was at first a $32 billion plan. De Blasio balked, citing concerns that the state would again raid the MTA fund for other uses.

After weeks of public sniping in what became the latest front in the ongoing battle between Albany and City Hall, de Blasio agreed to pay $2.5 billion while the state will contribute $8.3 billion. The rest is made up of pre-existing dedicated revenue streams.

Both men touted the plan Monday.

“It’ll be a more pleasant experience for the rider. But it’ll also be better for the economy,” Cuomo said. “And you put that together with the [proposed new LaGuardia] airport, new bridges, new roads, New York is going to have a whole different feel.”