Category Archives: New Jersey

Freight train derails in New Jersey, causing commuter delays

WTNH Channel 8

A freight train en route to upstate New York derailed in northern New Jersey on Friday afternoon, leaving rail cars strewn across the tracks and snarling the evening commute for thousands of people leaving New York.

Fire officials in Union Township, southwest of Newark, said the roughly 140-car train operated by CSX Transportation derailed about 1:30 p.m. on its way to Selkirk, New York, a suburb of Albany.

Fire Chief Michael Scanio said the tracks suffered “severe damage” but that the train cars were empty according to the engineer’s manifest, and there were no injuries.

Overhead images showed at least a dozen rail cars off the tracks or lying on their sides.

People were evacuated from nearby homes and businesses, Scanio said, but were being allowed to return to their homes by late afternoon after hazmat teams cleared the accident scene.

The tracks affected by the derailment are owned by Conrail and are also used by commuter railroad New Jersey Transit, which suspended service on its Raritan Valley Line in both directions in the area of the derailment.

There was no immediate indication about what caused the derailment or how long it would take to restore rail service in the area.

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Job No. 1 for Next Governor? NJ’s Transportation Infrastructure

High-level policy recommendations, priorities, and projects all part of report prepared for Christie’s successor.

Of all the major challenges facing the state’s next governor, New Jersey’s aging and often unreliable transportation system may be the most urgent and difficult one to deal with.

But a new report released by the Fund for New Jersey — with the endorsement of a former governor — offers a series of detailed transportation-policy recommendations for Gov. Chris Christie’s successor, while also making the argument that nothing less than the health of the state economy is at stake if New Jersey can’t figure out a way to maintain first-class infrastructure.

“I would argue it is the key to economic prosperity in New Jersey, and economic prosperity is the key to everything else in New Jersey,” said former Gov. Jim Florio, a member of the Fund for New Jersey’s board of trustees, during a news conference in Trenton yesterday.

Among the tough-medicine recommendations made in the report is a call for carving out of revenue from state driver’s license and registration fees to better support transportation investment, as well as possibly increasing those fees to help the state wean itself off ongoing fund diversions from capital accounts and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

The report also recommends consolidating state highway agencies within the Department of Transportation to make them more efficient and to reduce overall cost. And it also revisits the notion of letting a private company operate state toll roads in exchange for upfront cash, an idea that was famously unpopular with New Jersey residents when floated by former Gov. Jon Corzine a decade ago.

The report is the fourth in a Crossroads NJ series that the nonpartisan Fund for New Jersey has been rolling out during the 2017 election year, which will see both the governor’s office and all 120 state legislative seats up for grabs in November. Officials from the fund, a philanthropic organization that encourages informed policymaking (and is a funder of NJ Spotlight), say their goal is to inject into this year’s public debate a set of serious proposals, though they acknowledge their ideas aren’t the only options that should be on the table.
‘Being honest with the people’

“It’s time now for leaders to start being honest with the people,” said Florio, who served as New Jersey’s governor from 1990 to 1994.

“No alternative that you offer is particularly pleasant (and) all of the alternatives are problematic,” Florio said. “But leadership entails being able to offer people options, alternatives, and then make decisions on the basis of what is least offensive or the most advantageous.”

The report on the transportation issue comes out at a particularly critical time, with ongoing questions being raised about the financing of the state’s most significant transportation project, a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel. New Jersey Transit has also been the subject of ongoing legislative hearings in the wake of a fatal crash in Hoboken last year, with the most recent hearing delving into concerns about management, finances, and patronage that were leveled by a former agency compliance officer, accusations that were strongly disputed by NJ Transit in a subsequent lawsuit.
Not up to blue-ribbon standards

And despite recent NJ Transit fare increases and a politically unpopular 23-cent gas-tax hike that was imposed on motorists just last year as part of a reauthorization of the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund, the state’s annual investment in transportation is still falling nearly $1 billion short of the amount identified in a blue-ribbon commission report on transportation infrastructure that was drafted more than a decade ago.

“The political dimensions of this subject are really important – and they’re difficult,” said Martin Robins, director emeritus of Rutgers University’s Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, as he presented the report along with Florio yesterday.
Setting priorities

At the top of the report’s priority list is likely the toughest transportation issue facing the state: where funding for the nearly $30 billion Gateway infrastructure project that includes the new trans-Hudson rail tunnel will come from. Christie, a Republican, canceled a prior tunnel project during his first-term in office, and now it’s unclear whether President Donald Trump’s administration will honor a cost-sharing plan for Gateway that was drafted during the tenure of former President Barack Obama. That plan called for the federal government to pick up half the cost of Gateway, which includes several other infrastructure improvements in addition to a new tunnel, with the balance to be covered by New Jersey, New York, and the Port Authority.

The century-old rail tunnel that’s currently used by NJ Transit was seriously damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and both its inbound and outbound tubes are in need of repair. If just one of the tunnel’s tubes were to go out of service before a new tunnel is up and running, the number of hourly trips into New York would be reduced from 24 to six, the report warns.

“There is an urgency of incomparable nature that this project proceeds,” Robins said.

The report makes a similar call for urgency to support the state’s bus commuters as the Port Authority continues to move slowly on a project to replace its flagship bus terminal in midtown Manhattan. The agency’s latest long-term capital plan included only partial funding for a new bus terminal even as ridership is expected to increase by as much as 50 percent by 2040. And while not every resident of the state commutes into New York or even uses the mass-transit system, both Robins and Florio argued that all residents have a stake in maintaining the infrastructure because those jobs support the local economies in communities across the state.

“The real-estate market, which is a vital part of New Jersey’s suburban economy, is tremendously undergirded by the quality of public transportation and the accessibility of those municipalities to New York City,” Robins said.

The report, meanwhile, also devotes a lot of attention to New Jersey’s major highways and rail network. Among other things, it cites concerns about the roughly $200 million in annual revenue that is being diverted from the toll-dependent New Jersey Turnpike Authority to help sustain NJ Transit. That agency’s annual subsidy in recent years has been held flat or even reduced. The report also highlights an ongoing diversion of NJ Transit capital funds for operating expenses that has occurred for decades under governors from both parties.

“Restoring this money to its intended use would strengthen a NJ Transit capital budget that remains fragile and insufficient even after the 2016 (TTF reauthorization),” the report says.

The report also suggests earmarking excess revenue from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which every year sends millions of dollars into the state’s general fund after covering its own expenses. Charging tolls on interstate highways in New Jersey and generating new tax revenue from real-estate transactions or businesses, which is something the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority has been doing, was also put up for consideration.

Some of the recommendations echo policies that have been proposed by the gubernatorial candidates. For example, Democrat Phil Murphy has called for the creation of a dedicated source of revenue for NJ Transit, and both Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno are emphasizing the Gateway initiative and the bus-terminal project as part of their transportation platforms.

But officials from the Fund for New Jersey said their report and its recommendations are not intended to favor one candidate or another. And they also hope the conversation on transportation policy will go beyond this year’s election season.

“The day after the election, these issues don’t stop being issues,” said Kiki Jamieson, the fund’s president.

New Jersey Spotlight via California Rail News

NEC: Gateway Program Meeting with Trump ‘Productive,’ Amtrak CEO

MassTransitMag.com via California Rail News

Sept. 12–Amtrak CEO Tony Coscia on Tuesday described last week’s joint meeting with the Trump administration on the Gateway Program as “very productive,” but warned that costs to build new rail tunnels under the Hudson River would balloon if funding isn’t secured soon…
The $24 billion Gateway Program would dig a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City. While replacing debilitated infrastructure, the program would also improve capacity for the growing number of people making the cross-Hudson commute. Those commuters will be on New Jersey Transit, not Amtrak.

For starters, Antony Coscia is not a CEO of Amtrak, he is Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors. Before that he was Chairman of the Board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority is responsible for building and maintaining most of the transportation infrastructure in the New York City Metro area. It is also a major player in the Gateway Project.

What else could be built for $24 billion dollars? That’s roughly the cost in California for about 300 miles of High Speed Rail between Bakersfield and San Francisco. So far the Federal Government has given $3.2 billion for California High Speed Rail and there are few expectations it will approve any more. How much money will the Gateway Project cost US Taxpayer? The Port Authority is self funded, it makes money on bridge tolls and as a landlord: it owned the original World Trade Center and now its replacement as well as other commercial buildings. It has the power to raise bonds for construction projects to be serviced from the Authority’s income. However many of its properties such as LaGuadia airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal among other have been allowed to become rundown. Many people would like to know where the Port Authority’s money is going too. The Port Authority is often called the private piggy bank of the Governors of New York and New Jersey since there is no legislative oversight over its spending. The projected cost of the Gateway Project in 2011 was $13.5 billion. Now it’s $24 billion and we are being warned the price will go up if financing isn’t secured soon?

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/