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Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and New Jersey officials have expressed reservations about the feasibility of proposals for the Hudson River rail tunnel project outlined in an independent report released by the Gateway Program Development Corp. (GDC) earlier this week.
The recommendations in the report, prepared by London Bridge Associates, suggest single track operations and daily startup/shutdown of construction activities in the Hudson River Tunnel.
New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker have all expressed concern that this would have the potential to significantly impact rail operations and, consequently, riders who depend on the rail service.
Closure of just one of the two tubes would result in as much as a 75% reduction in weekday train service and have a drastic impact on the region’s economy, NJ Transit officials said in a press release.
Additional proposed modifications to weeknight train service would also affect riders by creating gaps in service frequency, meaning longer wait times between scheduled trains, they said.
“Make no mistake — I am opposed to any rehab proposals that could negatively impact the reliability of service for thousands of New Jersey commuters who cross the Hudson each day,” Murphy said.
Many of the proposed activities in the report present significant engineering and operational challenges, which have not yet been validated, NJ Transit officials said. Furthermore, the proposal must be evaluated to ensure existing service is not compromised in any way.
“The recommendations in this report are highly speculative and require a much more detailed evaluation before declaring them practicable,” said NJ Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Corbett.
The project's plan has been to build a new tunnel, and once a new tunnel is completed, to shut down the 110-year old North River Tunnel for a comprehensive rehab.
“[The report] makes extraordinary assumptions about the feasibility, costs and inherent risks of performing the rehab work entirely on night and weekend outages,” said Amtrak Chairman and Gateway Program Development Corp. Trustee Vice Chair Tony Coscia. “The long list of repairs and improvements needed in our century-old tunnel includes certain tasks that will require a full closure of the tubes for some period of time.”