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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak officials, New Jersey senators announce $13.5 billion Hudson tunnel proposal


Yesterday, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman and U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) announced Amtrak’s proposal to spend $50 million on preliminary engineering and design for two new rail tunnels between New Jersey and New York City.

The "Gateway Project" would increase commuter train capacity by allowing New Jersey Transit to add another 13 trains and Amtrak, another eight trains per peak hour into New York City, Amtrak officials said in a prepared statement.

"The Gateway Project is essential to the future growth and economic development of the entire northeast region and will provide for greater capacity, connectivity and convenience for Amtrak and commuter passengers in the heart of Manhattan," Boardman said. "It is a critical first step that we can take now to bring 220 mph Amtrak high-speed service to the Northeast Corridor."

The Gateway Project replaces a $9 billion Access to the Region's Core (ARC) tunnel project that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie eliminated last year because of cost concerns.

Amtrak and federal officials have continued to voice concerns over commuters' lengthy travel times and crowding on trains, so Amtrak "expedited its plans to build new rail tunnels," Amtrak officials said.

When completed by 2020, the $13.5 billion project would increase New Jersey Transit commuter-rail capacity into New York by 65 percent, according to Amtrak.

In addition, the project could expand intercity and high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor, said Amtrak officials.

The latest proposal is more expensive than the ARC plan partly because Amtrak is calling for replacing and expanding the century-old Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus, N.J. In addition, the proposal includes expanding track capacity from a two-track to four-track configuration between Newark and New York Penn stations.

Amtrak will "take a lead" in seeking funds to cover project costs, along with local, regional and New Jersey and New York state governments; New York City; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and private investors, Amtrak officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/8/2011