Access to the Region’s Core Gets Full Federal Support

Today looked to be an important milestone in the Access to the Region’s Core project, with Gov. Jon Corzine and a host of federal and state officials breaking ground on NJ Transit’s “Mass Transit Tunnel,” which will double rail capacity between New York City and NJ Transit’s rail network. But TSTC staffers and other members of the audience heard even more momentous news from the Federal Transit Administration, which announced that it intends to sign a full funding grant agreement later in the year. This commitment of $3 billion in “New Starts” money, coupled with the $5.7 billion committed by the Port Authority and NJ Transit, means the project is now fully funded.

Because the $3 billion is beyond the FTA’s commitment authority, it requires Congressional approval, which is expected to be routine. In the meantime, the FTA has signed a $1.35 billion “early systems work agreement” for the project.

Calling ARC a “truly transformational investment,” FTA administrator Peter Rogoff said that “the Obama Administration is committed to seeing this project through to its completion.” NJ Transit executive director Richard Sarles said the project would improve statewide rail access, and thanked Tri-State for advocating and building support for the tunnel.

When construction on the tunnel begins this month, three transit megaprojects will be progressing in the metropolitan region: ARC, the Second Avenue Subway, and LIRR East Side Access. While there is some uncertainty over the MTA’s next five-year capital plan, which will fund the latter two projects, this is the greatest level of transit expansion the region has seen in decades.

TSTC and New Jersey environmental and planning groups applauded the groundbreaking this morning (the release was sent before the FTA’s funding announcement). Peter Kasabach of NJ Future said the tunnel “will enable smarter growth in New Jersey.”  ARC “proves that job creation and environmental awareness go hand in hand,” Dave Pringle of the NJ Environmental Federation said. Regional Plan Association’s Carlos Rodrigues said the tunnel’s benefits accrued to “the entire region, making it more livable and more competitive.” Julia Sommers of the Highlands Coalition noted that by driving investment in cities, ARC would relieve the sprawl development threatening the Highlands water conservation area. PlanSmart NJ and the NJ Conservation Foundation also lauded the groundbreaking.

6 Comments on "Access to the Region’s Core Gets Full Federal Support"

  1. Clark Morris | June 9, 2009 at 9:39 pm |

    This is a tragedy. The project should be stripped of ALL funding until the line is designed either to feed the current Penn Station plus an East side station for both the LIRR and NJT on the way to the East River tunnels or the new line connected to Grand Central with only a double track 3 platform station on the West Side. Either solution should have all NJT trains through routed to MTA points with combined service with the MTA. Elimination of turnbacks in Manhattan will increase capacity and requires vision. No new technology is needed just the will to use existing technology and overcome institutional obstacles.

  2. William Doggle | June 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm |

    I find it disappointing that the construction will start out of the ‘host town’ of multi-ethnic, working class North Bergen,NJ. Yet when construction is complete, North Bergen will get no station. Access will only go to the rich, homogenous (wink wink) communities in central North Jersey.

    Thanks, Rich New Jersians! Congratulations on your tunnel running under our back yard with no stop for us!

    William in North Bergen.

  3. NY Political Addict | June 15, 2009 at 9:43 pm |

    While the new tunnel is needed and will provide great benefit to NJ Transit commuters, the failure to connect the new tunnel to Penn Station (and the old Hudson River tunnels to the new 34th Street deep station greatly reduces the transportation redundancy so important for dealing with unexpected events and for weekend and night track work. Equally important, the new tunnel provides no new capacity for Amtrak service in the NE Corridor unless existing NJT train slots are pushed out of the current Penn Station schedule. Lastly, under the current arrangement, NJT will incur the higher operating costs of running two Manhattan terminals at night and for portions of weekends when one station would certainly suffice.

  4. I agree with all the points made above, and want to add that the design of the new terminal under 34th St is a disaster waiting to happen. I understand the many difficulties confronted in designing this tunnel. But it seems the final result is so flawed that it is not worth building.

  5. Barry Moraller | June 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm |

    Homogenous rich communities like Union, Plainfield, Dunellen and Bound Brook?

    Have you seen central jersey?

  6. Happily NJ Governor Christie axed the Tunnel to Macy’s Basement.

    Now, more rational plans can be drawn up than this hastily and ill-conceived monument to expediency on the part of NJ Transit Executive Director George Warrington and now-disgraced NJ Governor Jon Corzine.

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