New Hudson River Tunnel Gets $$$

Like many New Yorkers, I don't start to believe that something is going to happen until lots of money is actually put behind them by the long list of Federal, State, City and Quasi-governmental "authorities" that must get involved in any major public works project. That's why today I'm starting to believe more and more than NJ Transit's plan for a new Hudson River Rail Tunnel, following the Port Authority's approval of $2 Billion for it.

The proposed Hudson River Commuter tunnel would essentially double the number of trains and people that could enter Manhattan from New Jersey. This would allow NJ Transit to bypass rail lines on Amtrak's NE Corridor line. It would significantly increase speed and comfort of commutes by rail from New Jersey and stimulate more people to ride the train rather than drive to Manhattan.

The key benefit according to Access to the Region's Core is:

Improvements in New Jersey to provide a one-seat ride to NJ TRANSIT riders on the Raritan Valley, Main/Bergen, and Pascack Valley Lines. These lines collectively serve central and northern New Jersey as well as Orange and Rockland counties in New York.

That would really connect up the city to Northern Jersey and other Suburban communities, which could also spur expansion of the light rail network up there. If completed on the current timeline (Don't hold your breath) it would be ready for service in 2016.

Those deep caverns seem like a waste of an awful lot of money, considering two facts. First of all, Penn Station track capacity is not quite maxed out, the real problem is getting the trains under the Hudson, which could be fixed by building even a single track new tunnel. The trains could use some of the existing 21 tracks. A big win would come from the fact that if the new tunnel is built south of the existing one, the incoming NJT trains going to tracks 1-4 wouldn't have to intersect the Empire line, and for that matter would have significantly fewer crossovers to take. If they also build tail tracks past the end of the station, they get some extra space to store their trains, and if they run it like a subway, with separate relay drivers to pull the trains in and out of the tail tracks, they can turn probably 24 trains an hour on those four tracks. The problem then becomes one of how to get all the people on and off those trains fast enough, which is already partly solved by the new NJT concourse, and would be made even better with more stairways to access those tracks. And no need to build hugely expensive underground caverns. Plus, if NJT tries hard enough to encourage a reverse commute, they don't even have to take up valuable East River tunnel slots to take the empty trains to Sunnyside, since they'll be going to back to Jersey, and full of paying passengers.