Category Archives: New Jersey

East River tunnel plan: feasible or fantasy?

Think tank’s rail tunnel plan: feasible or fantasy?

It took a century to complete even a small piece of the Second Avenue subway. The ARC rail tunnel project was canceled after work began. The quest to build the Gateway tunnel has been dragging on. East Side Access, which was once expected to have connected the LIRR to Grand Central by now, is still about six years away. And the cross-harbor rail freight tunnel, after 30 years of advocacy from Rep. Jerrold Nadler, remains just a hope.

Yep. Building train tunnels around here is hard.

So what did the Regional Plan Association propose yesterday? Two new rail tunnels under the East River.

But anyone who mocks the idea as fantasy should consider the list of big RPA ideas that have been ridiculed over the last few decades only to eventually come to fruition, including the George Washington and Verrazano bridges; open space preservation (the Palisades, Governors Island Gateway National Recreation Area); the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; the Second Avenue subway, East Side Access (just about) and (probably) Amtrak’s Gateway project.

Crains New York

Port in a storm for new Port Authority chief Rick Cotton

At 8 a.m. Monday, the watch changes and Rick Cotton is piped aboard as the new executive director of the Port Authority. Let’s hope he’s wearing a life jacket.

Serving as Gov. Cuomo’s special counsel for interagency initiatives for the last two-and-a-half years after a long private career, Cotton is a guy who’s gotten some big things done.

He helped Cuomo get the Second Ave. subway and new Tappan Zee Bridge done.

He helped Cuomo get the transformation of the Farley General Post Office into the Moynihan Station and a new Penn Station started after 25 years of dithering.

He helped Cuomo get the overhauls of LaGuardia and JFK airports, and the expansion of the Javits Center, underway.

But all those jobs look easy compared next to the task of piloting the $5-billion-a-year agency founded in 1921 as the Port of New York Authority. The problem is that the decidedly junior partner in terms of population and economic strength, New Jersey, has half the board votes and each governor has a veto over all board actions.

 

 

 

That made it tough for the outgoing executive director, Pat Foye, who had to deal with three actual criminals, including Chairman David Samson, installed by Chris Christie. Even after Samson and Bridgegate felons Bill Baroni and David Wildstein were hauled away thanks to Foye’s whistleblowing, the replacement as chairman was the imperious John Degnan, who tried to blackmail New York to accept an overly expensive and elaborate bus terminal on the West Side.

Didn’t they learn anything from the overly expensive and elaborate $4.4 billion boondoggle that was the white marble PATH station at the World Trade Center, another Jersey special foisted on New York?

Besides watching the Port’s end of the Queens airport rehabs, Cotton must engage with our cross-Hudson friends on NJ Transit and Amtrak’s overly expensive and elaborate Gateway project to dig new passenger rail tubes into Penn.

New tunnels are imperative to help trains move through what are now choked arteries between Jersey and Manhattan. But as currently planned, Gateway is a mess.

Once priced at $20 billion, with $10 billion pledged from the feds and $5 billion per state, estimates have ballooned to $30 billion even as D.C. has seemingly reneged on its $10 billion share.

The answer is to push ahead on digging the tubes but otherwise cut Gateway way back. Scrap a plan to tear down a huge swath of Midtown for a new Penn South terminal costing $6 billion. And raise one instead of two new bridges over the Hackensack River, which will save another $2 billion. Maybe a smaller, smarter, cheaper and quicker Gateway can attract the feds.

Perhaps an even harder lift for Cotton will be to advance a rail freight tunnel from Jersey to Brooklyn. That was the raison d’être for the Port’s birth in 1921. To his great credit, Cuomo wants the tunnel to relieve the roads from punishing truck traffic and bring freight to New York with the same efficiency it gets most everywhere else in America.

New York should be as pushy when it comes to trimming back Gateway and boring the freight tunnel as Jersey has been over the years.

It’s long past time for the senior Port partner to start getting its way.

Musical Chairs at NY City Transit Authority and Port Authority

NY Post

A shakeup in the highest echelons of the Port Authority reached all the way to the MTA on Tuesday — with the PA’s chief switching over to the transit agency.

Port Authority Executive Director and Bridgegate figure Pat Foye stepped down from his post at the PA in the morning to assume his new role as MTA president, sources said.

Foye — who famously ordered the lanes at the George Washington Bridge to be reopened after they were closed for political reasons in the Bridgegate scandal — will report to MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, sources said.

Rider advocates said they believe Foye is a good pick for the job at the agency, which has spiraled into chaos because of increasing derailments and delays caused by aging infrastructure.

“Gov. Cuomo has put in place an experienced team,” said Nick Sifuentes, deputy director of the Riders Alliance. “Now they need him to guarantee the sustainable funding source they need to make good on their promise to fix our subways.”

Following Foye out the door at the PA on Tuesday was the agency’s chairman, John Degnan, who had been clashing with Cuomo recently, sources said. Degnan was not given a new position anywhere, at least not yet.

Degnan was a Gov. Christie appointee to the bi-state agency. Foye was a Cuomo guy, as is Lhota.

The departure of both Degnan and Foye from the PA provides a new slate at the agency that both governors can live with, according to sources.

Gov. Cuomo’s trusted special counsel, Rick Cotton, will replace Foye, while former New Jersey legislator Kevin O’Toole is replacing Degnan, officials said.

Cotton and O’Toole will resume the search for a Port Authority CEO and will oversee major projects, including the new La Guardia Airport, renovations at JFK and plans for a new bus terminal, officials said.The departure of both Degnan and Foye from the PA provides a new slate at the agency that both governors can live with, according to sources.

Gov. Cuomo’s trusted special counsel, Rick Cotton, will replace Foye, while former New Jersey legislator Kevin O’Toole is replacing Degnan, officials said.

Cotton and O’Toole will resume the search for a Port Authority CEO and will oversee major projects, including the new La Guardia Airport, renovations at JFK and plans for a new bus terminal, officials said.

Sources said Degnan was pushed out for criticizing the mayor over the search for a new CEO. Last month, Degnan told a media outlet that the governor wouldn’t approve anyone he found for a new CEO position. He had also called the CEO search a failure, while Cuomo prides himself on getting the job done, no matter how difficult a task, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Cuomo administration has repeatedly blasted Degnan for failing to institute oversight at the beleaguered agency.

Foye had expressed a desire to leave the Port Authority for more than a year but stayed on to see Degnan out, sources said.

“Foye wasn’t going to leave until Degnan did,” a source noted.

In addition to Foye’s new post at the MTA, longtime transit-agency honcho Ronnie Hakim will be named managing director of operations, sources said. She will report to Lhota, who in June reclaimed the role he left in 2013

Zim ship first to pass under raised bridge at NY-NJ port

The arrival of the Zim Antwerp, heading under the bridge for Maher Terminals, will open a new era at the East Coast’s largest port.

Larger ships than expected traversing new Panama Canal
The long-anticipated sea change in trans-Pacific shipping networks is well underway a year after the Panama Canal opened its expanded lock system.

Looking for the Ontario & Western….Found Salisbury Mills

Got a request from a viewer about NY Ontario & Western tracks from Cornwall-on-Hudson to Salisbury Mills. The old (at least 1957) O&W tracks appear everywhere across New York State from Cornwall to Utica to Oswego.

Consulted Emily from “I RideThe Harlem Line” and seem to have found an answer.

Salisbury Mills – Cornwall Station. Is on the Graham Line (named after Chief Engineer Joseph M. Graham), which was created to better accomodate freight. Really, the most noteworthy part of the then-Graham Line, today’s Port Jervis Line, is the Moodna Viaduct.

A few of the stations on the Port Jervis line feature a little historical sketch on the canopy. Unfortunately, the one at Salisbury Mills – Cornwall is left blank… which is really too bad.

The original Salisbury Mills station was on the Erie’s Newburgh Branch.
Chester was Always Erie too.

My Railroad Stock!

I am sure some of our readers think I own all kinds of railroad stock.

They are wrong! I own one share of railroad stock! It is from the “Warwick Valley Rail Road Company”. In 1882 in joined in a merger that saw the Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad emerge.

The line extended from Belvidere, NJ to Maybrook, NY where the New Haven Railroad provided a gateway to New England. The L&HR built a bridge between Phillipsburg, NJ and Easton, PA and ran via trackage rights on the Pennsylvania RR and the Jersey Central Railroad to Allentown, PA. The L&HR handled zinc traffic from the area around Franklin, NJ but mostly it was a bridge line carrying overhead freight. The mergers and abandonments of the 1960 did the L&HR harm, but the New York Central – PRR merger in 1968 caused much traffic to be diverted. The line went bankrupt in 1972 and inclusion in Conrail spelled the end in 1976. The line north of Sparta Jct. became part of the New York, Susquehanna & Western main line in 1982 and the line south of that point was abandoned by Conrail in 1986.

Read more about the Lehigh & Hudson River
https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/the-warwick-valley-and-other-railroads-west-of-the-hudson/

Erie-Lackawanna Commuting in New Jersey

The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad’s Hoboken Terminal is the only active surviving railroad terminal alongside the Hudson River and is a nationally recognized historical site.

Built in 1907, Hoboken Terminal still serves. It has six ferry slips (now unused) as DL&W operated ferries to 23rd Street, Christopher Street and Barkley Street. It also connects with PATH trains. 18 tracks served both commuter and long distance traffic.

Lackawanna’s New Jersey territory became a major commuter carrier. A lot of money was spent on grade crossing elimination, track elevation and new stations before electrification in 1930 to Dover, Gladstone and Montclair. Electrification was viewed as the best way to squeeze more trains onto existing tracks.

Erie Lackawanna handled about half of the New Jersey/New York commuter volume with over 35,000 daily passengers riding over 200 trains. Much of the ex-DL&W work was done with equipment that was already over thirty years old at the time of the merger. Ex-Erie diesel routes used World War I-vintage coaches. Erie Lackawanna’s brief life saw both the end of Hudson River ferry service (1967) and long distance passenger service (1970). It also saw the rise of government subsidy for commuter service and the introduction of new equipment with this help.

Read more about the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad
https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/lackawanna-railroad/

Could this ‘visionary’ plan solve the area’s transit woes? (VIDEO)

NJ.com via California Rail News

With Penn Station’s failing infrastructure at capacity, a plan to merge the area’s train and bus service into one regional system is the cornerstone of an idea floated by a New York design firm as a solution to the region’s commuting problems.

Called ReThink NYC Plan 2050, the centerpiece of the idea is a unified commuter rail that connects NJ Transit, Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road lines through a revamped Penn Station…

Some funding for the plan, estimated to cost $48 billion, would come from scaling back plans to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal with a smaller structure. It would eliminate plans to build an annex south of Penn Station, which Rick called “a $7 billion to $8 billion mistake.”
The main criticism of Penn South annex is the extra tracks would dead end, limiting their usefulness.

“No other city is building a terminal in its core,” Rick said.
Instead, all platforms under Penn Station would be extended beneath the Moynihan Station, which will be the new name of the converted Farley postal facility.

GOVERNORS CHRISTIE AND CUOMO CALL FOR PRIVATIZING PENN STATION

WABC via California Rail News

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a joint letter declaring they have lost all faith in Amtrak. “A professional, qualified, private station operator must be brought in to take over the repairs and manage this entire process going,” the letter read.

Many of the infrastructure problems in the New York Metro Area can be blamed on the Governors of New York and New Jersey. Both States have power over the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority controls most of transportation in the Metro New York area. It is funded from revenue from bridge and tunnel tolls which allow it to issue bonds to build major projects without approval from legislatures or a vote from the people. The problem is many people consider the Port Authority a piggy bank for both state’s governors for money without the need need of dealing with the legislature. At the same time the Authority is not keeping up with maintaining infrastructure they already control. One example is the Port Authority’s Bus Terminal in Manhattan which is literally falling apart and needs replacing. The other is LaGuardia Airport which the Port Authority owns with the other regional airports. It was built in the 1930s and is a favorite butt of jokes. In New York the state has a major role in funding the Subway system. The state hasn’t been willing to fund the Subway which leaves much of the signalling and infrastructure predating the 1950’s. As for New Jersey it was Christie who cut money of the Gateway Project he now has to support and to New Jersey Transit. The result of the NJT cut backs has been in increase of accidents and breakdowns on NJT.

As Christie Hounds Amtrak, N.J. Transit Safety Fines Mount

Bloomberg News has sounded off on Governor Christie of New Jersey

Fresh details of safety lapses are emerging at New Jersey’s beleaguered mass-transit agency even as Governor Chris Christie deflects blame and excoriates Amtrak, the national railroad, for mishaps and riders face upheaval.

In Hoboken, a major hub for New York-bound commuters, a “worn and chipped” track switch remained in use more than three months after it was identified, according to documents that New Jersey Transit provided after a public-records request. The faulty part, cited as a possible cause of a minor two-car derailment in 2014, endangered “thousands of commuters” a day, a Federal Railroad Administration inspector wrote.

At a Morris County yard, inspectors documented out-of-service trains left without brakes applied.

“This car had two wooden chocks under the first wheel, the only measure taken to prevent this string of 13 cars from rolling,” inspector Sean Fitzpatrick wrote in August 2016.

The reports come to light as Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, which share tracks under the Hudson River to Manhattan, tell riders to expect months of inconvenience due to maintenance and repairs after two Amtrak derailments at New York Pennsylvania Station. At the same time, Christie is withholding millions of dollars in fees due to Amtrak to keep its rails in good shape.

“If that’s the political game — pointing across the river to hide your own mismanagement — that’s unacceptable,” said Assemblyman John McKeon, a Democrat presiding over hearings on New Jersey Transit after a fatal wreck in Hoboken in September.

In all, New Jersey Transit faces 67 citations reported over two years that have yet to be settled, as railroads typically litigate them for years.

Passengers already suffer mounting delays and crowding at the hands of the nation’s second-busiest railroad, plus the long-term threat of a failure in Amtrak’s flood-damaged Hudson tunnel. Christie in 2010 canceled construction of a second tunnel, and President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint includes no funding for another passage, part of Amtrak’s proposed $23 billion Gateway project.

No injuries or fatalities have been linked to New Jersey Transit’s violations. In the 2014 Hoboken incident, “passengers were quickly escorted off the train,” Nancy Snyder, a New Jersey Transit spokeswoman, said in an email. The derailment, she said, “was not caused by NJT equipment nor human error, and the FRA inspector finding remains in dispute.”

Steve Santoro, the agency’s executive director, told lawmakers today in a state Senate budget hearing that the Hoboken switch incident was old news.

“We’ve done a lot of things to our railroad in the past two years,” Santoro said. “I can unequivocally say the railroad’s safe.”

As a whole, the reports detail a broader and more serious scope of troubles beyond those disclosed by the railroad at a legislative hearing in November.

In March 2015, for instance, a technician at a Morris County crossing used unapproved cables to bypass wiring that controls gates, warning lights and bells, then failed to reset the circuit, according to the reports. A crew noticed the defect while their train was in the crossing; the technician was given 10 days off without pay.