Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Secaucus Loop idea revived, tied to Gateway Tunnel

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Eight New York State legislators are urging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to pursue an elusive "one-seat ride" to New York-Penn Station for Rockland and Orange county residents, tying it to Amtrak's Gateway Tunnel plan to increase Northeast Corridor capacity under the Hudson River.

The state lawmakers, including one state Senator and seven Assembly members, last week noted in a letter to acting MTA Chairman Fernando Ferrer.that the project would benefit not only MTA Metro-North Railroad but also New Jersey Transit, according to local media.

Both railroads operate over three rail routes on NJT's Hoboken Division, with trains from Hoboken Terminal reaching Port Jervis, N.Y. (in Orange County) and Spring Valley, N.Y. (Rockland County), as well as interim points in Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey.

At present, Secaucus Junction requires a transfer for riders on Hoboken Division trains seeking access to Penn Station or other NEC points. Amtrak does not regularly serve Secaucus Junction, formally known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station.

Shortly before his death earlier this month, Lautenberg, a staunch supporter of Amtrak for three decades, joined other officials in announcing federal funding to enhance Amtrak’s trans-Hudson tunnel capacity, in part through the Gateway Tunnel project.

A Secaucus Loop was mentioned often, but informally, as part of a predecessor plan, Access to the Region's Core (ARC), but was dropped by New Jersey Transit with little fanfare. Public speculation over a loop continued, however, despite its elimination until New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie canceled ARC in late 2010, claiming concerns over cost overruns.

If a Secaucus Loop were to be built, dual-mode locomotives would be required for direct service to Midtown Manhattan. Trains operating on the ex-Erie Railroad line—Pascack Valley Line, Main/Bergen Line, and Port Jervis Line—operate with diesel locomotives, while the Northeast Corridor is electrified.

A Secaucus Loop also likely would undergo extensive environmental assessment, since it would cover several acres of Meadowlands wetlands in New Jersey.